November 30, 2003
Mission of the Seattle Times editorial pages

This mission statement appears at the bottom of the Seattle Times Sunday editorial page:

To be the most respected editorial voice in the Northwest

To be independent and influential advocates for children, schools, safe and clean communities, a dynamic economy, and ethical leadership in public and private sectors.

To be a forum for community dialogue and learning.

That's all very commendable, but none of that is consistent with the Molly Ivins columns that the Times prints each Monday.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:15 PM
Letters from My Hometown

A letter to the editor, published in today's Seattle Times:

It should occur to our current administration as well as to the public that it's highly likely that the rash of bombings that have been occurring in many countries (Bali, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc.) which are likely to expand to other nations (including our own) in the future may be the result of our aggressive tactics in the worldwide "War on Terror."

Since 9-11, there has been no effort to understand the needs and concerns of the Muslim world; instead there has been only an effort to strike back.

But we should recognize that it's always easier to bomb stationary targets than it is to find the bombers, despite the continuing tough words by President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Tough words sound great to those who want to control the world, but they are empty words. Though they are designed to scare terrorists, they embitter, embolden and challenge terrorists. When will this administration and the American public recognize that our approach has been counterproductive?

The only way to end terrorist attacks is to start discussing issues with those who hate us; we're getting nowhere by continuing our tough words and denunciations of terrorist attacks. Our administration's approach is even more disturbing when our major strike (against Iraq) had nothing to do with terrorism, and its basic premise (weapons of mass destruction) was a lie.

How long will it take for those among us with their teeth and fists clenched to recognize this fact?
- Bruce Barnbaum, Granite Falls

Well, Bruce Barnbaum of Granite Falls, WA, I hate you too. But if you're willing to pledge allegiance to me and obey my commandments, I might be willing to hate you less. Why don't you come on over to my place so we can start discussing issues and so you can understand my needs. Leave your weapons at home and bring a suitcase full of cash. I'm sure we can work something out. Just be sure to bring enough cash.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:50 PM
Internationalize the Administration of Iraq?

The Democrats believe that the United Nations would be more welcome and effective in Iraq than the United States is:

Clinton and Reed said the expense and political burden in administering Iraq would be made easier with the U.N.'s stamp of legitimacy and help in transferring power to Iraqis.

"I'm a big believer that we ought to internationalize this, but it will take a big change in our administration's thinking," the former first lady said. "I don't see that it's forthcoming."

But something tells me that the Iraqi insurgents are not going to hand in their weapons to the boys in the blue helmets and pledge allegiance to Kofi Annan:

Seven Spanish intelligence agents killed in ambush in Iraq

Two Japanese diplomats killed in Iraq

Attack on Italian police kills 26 in Iraq

Suicide bomb hits U.N. in Iraq, kills at least 20

Bomb kills 15 at Red Cross in Iraq

No, I don't think that these terrorists will treat an international force with any more hospitality than they treat the Americans. Indeed, it turns out that Iraqi police appear to have coordinated some of the attacks on U.S. or Iraqi targets and that

the insurgency was becoming particularly bloody for Iraqi civilians. Guerrillas launched more than 150 attacks on Iraqi civilian and police targets, killing scores during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan
So it looks like the insurgents are largely the remnants of the old Baathist regime that brutalized the Iraqi people for all those years that are trying to terrorize the Iraqis into surrendering all over again. And in any event it's clear that they don't care who they kill in their quest to take control of Iraq, and they care the least of all about killing Iraqis.

Reconstructing Iraq and defeating the insurgents is not a job for the most "international" force, but for the strongest and most resolute. If there are any other countries out there that (a) have the will and the resources to finish the job of stablizing Iraq, and (b) aren't already part of the coalition, then by all means they should join us. But I have no idea who that could that possibly be.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
November 29, 2003
Top Ten Germans

The German ZDF TV network conducted a viewer survey to come up with "Our Best" -- the greatest Germans in history. Die Top Zehn were:

1. Konrad Adenauer
2. Martin Luther
3. Karl Marx
4. Hans and Sophie Scholl (resistance activists executed by the Nazis)
5. Willy Brandt
6. Johann Sebastian Bach
7. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
8. Johannes Gutenberg
9. Otto von Bismarck
10. Albert Einstein

Fair enough, but Karl Marx?

Claudia Schiffer, on the other hand, only placed 198.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:13 PM
November 28, 2003
EuroPal Fraud Watch

More indications that European Union funds may have been channelled to Palestinian militant groups responsible for the deaths of scores of people in suicide bombings:

The EU's anti-fraud unit and Belgian police are investigating claims that money earmarked for aid was paid to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades through Belgian and German affiliate organisations.

The allegation is that groups "have asked for European subsidies for some kind of immigrant project and that this was then transferred towards Al-Aqsa", the source said. Al-Aqsa is on the EU's list of banned terrorist organisations.

Meanwhile,
[EU commissioner for external relations Chris] Patten, who sees the Palestinian Authority as a key interlocutor, believes it is crucial to continue backing it.
Which is an easy thing to believe if you don't have to ride an Israeli bus to work.

Hat tip: EU Funding.org

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:13 PM
Religion of Peace

It's well known that Islam is a Religion of Peace. Fair enough. But then why does the Saudi flag have a sword just below where it's says that "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah"?

I'm just asking.

I should also mention that

The emblem of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia consists of two crossed curved Arabian swords surmounted by a date palm.
I'm not exactly sure what those various swords symbolize, but I'm certain it has something to do with peace.

UPDATE: Mike Silverman suggests a safety enhancement to the Saudi flag.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:25 PM
We're Here. We Volunteer...

Get used to it.

The Republican Party in Seattle is, well, small. Many of the region's political moderates and conservatives long ago fled for the relative safety of the Eastside suburbs, leaving in Seattle a concentrated elixir of far-left liberal lunacy. The Republican name has sufficiently poor brand equity in the city that the local party generally doesn't endorse candiates for local office, on the fear, I gather, that its endorsement would do more harm than good. Fortunately, I have seen signs of a revival of moderate Republicanism.

One sign of hope is a fine gentleman named Andy MacDonald, whose blog I discovered recently and whom I had the pleasure to meet over drinks the other day. Like myself, Andy is what Andrew Sullivan calls an "Eagle" -- laissez faire on economic and social issues, and in favor of a robust foreign policy to defend our liberties. We both made the journey from supporting Democrats to supporting Libertarians before concluding, post-9/11, that the Republican Party was the best vehicle for moving the country in the right direction.

On a local level, we agree that Republican solutions involving private initiative, competition, individual choice and market forces have a better chance of improving the local economic and educational climate than do the failed (but still wildly popular in Seattle) policies of high taxes, central planning and inept bureacracies.

But how to increase Republican involvement and influence in a city that has very little? Obviously, it's a years-long project. But you have to start somewhere. The first step: volunteer in the community, which we both were already planning to do, and also encourage other Republicans to volunteer, as per the President's call in his 2002 State of the Union:

My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years -- 4,000 hours over the rest of your lifetime -- to the service of your neighbors and your nation.
That's two hours a week between now and my 81st birthday. So I'd better get started. My passion is education, so I'm looking into programs where I can serve as an after-school tutor for disadvantaged kids. Andy is interested in helping a food bank in his neighborhood.

The Seattle Republicans: We're here, we volunteer, get used to it.

Also, Dec. 18 is National Republican Meet-up day. I'll be going to the Seattle Republican Meet-up. Go here to sign up for the Republican Meet-up in your area.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:13 AM
November 27, 2003
More editorial page fiction from the Seattle Times

For reasons which I cannot fathom, the Seattle Times editorial page gives Floyd McKay a weekly soapbox. Here is yesterday's column, which like many of McKay's other efforts, is more fiction than fact:

When we were in Britain in August, there was a huge furor over Blair's government "outing" a weapons expert who told the BBC that Blair's office "sexed up" weapons data in order to justify the war in Iraq.

The scientist, Dr. David Kelly, talked to a BBC reporter on condition that his name not be used. The story was a factor in British public opinion turning against Blair.

Blair's office soon discovered Kelly was the source and promptly leaked his name to pro-government reporters. Kelly was outed, despite a long tradition in the British government of allowing high-level officials to talk on background to the press without having their names disclosed.

Tragically for all involved, the outing was such a shock to Kelly that he committed suicide.

This is an interesting novelization of what actually transpired. In fact, the BBC reporter in question, Andrew Gilligan, admitted the following in his testimony to the investigating commission:
Gilligan said he had made a "slip of the tongue" when he said Downing Street inserted a claim in the September dossier that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, knowing it was wrong.

He also conceded it was a mistake, in one of his broadcasts, to describe the weapons expert David Kelly as an "intelligence service source". And he admitted failing to correct the Today presenter John Humphrys for making the same error.

Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news, said Gilligan failed to appreciate the "nuances and subtleties" of broadcast journalism, casting his reports in "primary colours" rather than shades of grey.

Both admitted it was a serious error of judgment for Gilligan to email members of the foreign affairs committee (FAC), suggesting questions they might ask of Dr Kelly and effectively outing him as the source for reports by the BBC Newsnight journalist Susan Watts. Dr Kelly's body was found three days after appearing before the FAC, apparently after taking his own life, leading to the setting up of Lord Hutton's inquiry.

In other words it was the BBC's Gilligan who "sexed up" the story and outed his own source. You wouldn't know any of this from Floyd McKay's summary.

McKay teaches journalism at Western Washington University. Perhaps he should to transfer to the English Department's Creative Writing Program

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:38 AM
November 26, 2003
A Tale of Two Babies

The British Political Cartoon Society has awarded first prize in its annual competition to Dave Brown of the Independent for this cartoon showing Ariel Sharon eating an Arab baby

So much for the funny papers.

Meanwhile, in the real world today,

A week-old Iraqi infant has arrived in Israel to undergo an operation to correct a congenital heart defect, with the aid of the Israeli organization Save a Child's Heart
Save a Child's Heart has given medical treatment to almost 1,000 children, including more than 300 Palestinians and several Jordanians. Now that Saddam is out of the way, Iraqi children have access to the treatment too.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:02 AM
Some laws are more equal than others

Reader "Markus Rose" posted a comment objecting to my endorsement of non-compliance with the Seattle Monorail automobile tax. I felt his questions and my answers deserved a full hearing:

is it morally acceptable for ANYONE to refuse to pay a tax that goes to fund ANYTHING that he/she finds morally objectionable? Would you mind if opponents of the Iraqi war or aid to Israel withheld some or all of their taxes in protest?

It would be one thing if the tax was foisted upon citizens of seattle in an undemocratic manner -- but according to you it was passed by the majority of registered voters who cared enough about the issue to get off their butts and vote either for or against it. How is the fact that these voters make up 22% of total registered voters any more relevant than the twenty-something percentage of voters who elected Bush by a few hundred votes? Since when is are close elections or low-turnout elections considered illegitimate?

First of all, people choose not to comply with various laws all the time. In fact, the only time people do comply with a law is when: (a) the total cost and/or foregone pleasure of complying with the law is lower than the anticipated cost of not complying with the law and/or (b) the law seems fair and reasonable.

I suspect "Markus" is taken aback by my endorsement of non-compliance with this particular law primarily because it's a tax. We don't often talk about avoiding taxes in public because in nearly all cases (this is a rare exception) avoiding a tax can incur a large enough penalty that it is seldom a good idea to advertise your non-compliance.

As far as legitimacy goes, political legitimacy is not a binary variable. It is a continuum. It is also not fixed at a point in time, it varies as people's information and outlooks change. Winning an electoral contest ensures only a procedural outcome, it does not ensure that individuals will comply with the new situation. To ensure compliance you need to either (a) fix the cost/benefit constraints to favor compliance, or (b) persuade enough members of the public on an ongoing basis that the law is fair and reasonable and popular. The Monorail Initiative by design did not do (a) and the Monorail's constituents are having a difficult time doing (b).

I have no specific objection to the Monorail as such, although I'm sure that many others do. My objection is regards only to the funding mechanism. The backers of the Monorail could have chosen to fund their project differently, but they chose to fund it through an easily avoidable, effectively voluntary tax. That not enough people are volunteering to pay the tax is their problem, not mine.

Do you plan to teach your children that it is morally justifiable to break a law they disagree with, as long as the penalties for noncompliance are neglibable or nonexistent?
Depending on the circumstances of each particular law, absolutely. Because how else are unjust laws ever changed?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Europeaser Watch

Do take a look at this website -- eufunding.org -- which keeps a watch on EU funding for Palestinian institutions and how those funds are misused for incitement and terrorism. New this week is a submission to a UK parliamentary inquiry that exhaustively documents the misuse and disappearance of €4 billion over the last 10 years.

And then there is the EU and UNESCO-funded Palestinian education system.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
November 25, 2003
The 'E' is for Evasion

Joanne Jacobs mentions that the National Education Association is being audited by the IRS

The IRS is auditing the nation's largest teachers union, scrutinizing an organization that works energetically to elect candidates but files tax returns reporting zero political expenditures from member dues.
while at the same time
the union budgeted $4.9 million for the 2000 election for such things as "organizational partnerships with political parties, campaign committees and political organizations."
The main thrust of the NEA's political activity is to block meaningful education reforms, to maintain tenure rights for incompetent teachers and to obstruct parental choice. If Pete Rose, Leona Helmsley and Chuck Berry could go to jail for tax evasion, so too should these people.

The Associated Press slipped-up on this line:

The records showed the 2.7 million-member union spent millions of dollars to help elect pro-education candidates, produce political training guides and gather teachers' voting records.
It doesn't seem appropriate to label a politician who conspires with the NEA to leave millions of children languishing in failing schools as "pro-education".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:14 PM
No Excuses (I)

Abigail Thernstrom, author of No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning, in an interview on NPR All Things Considered this evening.

The main points --

* Give principals autonomy to hire good teachers, whether or not they have ed-school credentials, which Thernstrom regards as largely useless.
* Longer school hours, including Saturday mornings if necessary
* Focus on core subjects
* Insist on disciplinary rules that the public schools feel powerless to insist on
* Pay good teachers more than mediocre teachers
* Asian students are "culturally lucky" because Asian parents tend to make their kids work hard and do well in school. But hard work is a "culturally transferrable" trait. Kids from other cultures are just as capable of working as hard as Asians.
* There aren't enough schools that transmit the message that "hard work will put you on a path to success in American society ... it doesn't matter what your color is. You can go far but you have to have skills and knowledge. Work for them."
* Instead of trying to turn around an entire failing urban school district from the top, better to turn around a lot of individual schools by turning them into charter schools where the principals would have autonomy and authority to manage budget, curriculum and discipline.
* Close the schools that aren't working
* Accountability: educate the kids or you're gone.

Hard work, accountability, incentives, autonomous schools. Yes, sometimes it really is that simple. Listen to the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:13 PM
No Excuses (II)

And while we're on the subject of charter schools, it turns out that Washington is one of only 10 states that don't allow charter schools.

Which is why I'm supporting the Educational Excellence Coalition to lobby for school choice in Washington.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:13 PM
Free Charles Booher

Doesn't the U.S. Attorney's office have anything better to do?

by way of Sasha Volokh

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:14 PM
Protocols of the Elders of Zion, courtesy of UNESCO

The Museum of Manuscripts at Egypt's recently renovated Alexandria Library is exhibiting a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion -- next to the Torah in a display of "holy books for the monotheistic religions". The director of the Museum of Manuscripts, a one Dr. Youssef Ziedan decided to include the Protocols in the display of holy books because:

When my eyes fell upon this rare copy of this dangerous book, I decided immediately to display it next to the Torah. Although it is not a monotheistic holy book, it has become a holy book for the Jew, their primary law, their way of life.

Source: MEMRI (in an article which at this writing is available only in Hebrew).

MEMRI also mentions Dr. Ziedan's Holocaust denial essays at his personal website (in Arabic) and quotes his blood libelous remarks at a recent Egyptian forum on Jews, Judaism and Zionism .

The Museum of Manuscripts was created with funding and support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

UPDATE MEMRI now has an English language article about Ziedan and the Alexandria library.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:38 AM
November 24, 2003
Pro Bono

A young man named Dynamite Salavea was convicted of raping a 5-year-old boy and a 6-year-old boy when he was himself a teenager . By the time he was caught and charged, he was old enough to be sentenced as an adult, and he was put away for 79 years. At the time Salavea committed the crimes, however, he was still young enough to be treated as a juvenile. His lawyer is trying to get him released now that he is 21.

Salavea's case is before the Washington Supreme Court. Yes, even someone who has been convicted of repeatedly raping little boys needs to be represented by counsel. But is it so important that he be released from prison at the earliest opportunity that someone should perform pro bono work on his behalf?

George Yeannakis, a Seattle University Law School professor who helped write a "friendly brief" on behalf of Salavea, said, "How low (in age) would you go [to sentence a juvenile as an adult]? It would become ludicrous at some point."
When it becomes ludicrous, George, someone should give you a call. In the meantime, I hope I'm not the only one who thinks that it is not ludicrous to prevent Dynamite Salavea from hanging around at playgrounds.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:38 PM
Interview with the Vampire

German daily Die Welt interviews the "spiritual" leader of Hamas, the bloodthirsty gymnast Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The original report in German is here. I translate:

DIE WELT: What is the goal of the negotiations in Cairo that the Palestinian factions were invited to?
Yassin: We are also taking part in the talks. But I don't know the agenda. That's up to the Egyptians. I only know that it concerns forming a joint Palestinian position.

DIE WELT: A joint Hudna (ceasefire) or a joint escalation of the struggle?
Yassin: Without an Israeli withdrawal there can be no discussion of a cessation in the struggle.

DIE WELT: Are there any discussions in government circles about a long-term ceasefire?
Yassin: All the Palestinian groups and the Egyptians will be taking part in the talks. It's difficult to say in advance what direction they will take. But at this point in time there can be no talk of a Hudna. Not now. The Israelis must first live up to their obligations.

DIE WELT: What are you thinking of? What sort of obligations?
Yassin: As to all the Israeli aggressions. First of all, the settlements. And also the constantly aggressive measures of the Israeli army.

DIE WELT: Settlements and assassinations. Aren't these the points on which Israeli Prime Minister Sharon announced unilateral steps?
Yassin (Laughing. Shaking his head): Sharon? He won't do anything. And as long as the soldiers are here next to us and as long as there are assassinations, there can be no talk of calming the situation.

DIE WELT: So no Hudna?
Yassin: Not without clear concessions from the Israelis concerning the settlements and the restoration of our Palestinian rights.

[ For a full understanding of Hamas' definition of "Palestinian rights", be sure to read the Hamas Charter]
DIE WELT: Can there be an inter-Palestinian agreement?
Yassin: We reached an accommodation when Mahmud Abbas came into office. He approached us with certain demands and we fulfilled them. Ahmed Qureia has been to see us. But he came without any demands. His only wish the last time we met was that the dialogue would continue.

DIE WELT: And what is the substance of this inter-Palestinian dialogue?
Yassin: Our mutual interests. Qureia also wants the settlements to be evacuated and for the assassinations to stop. Freedom. For our land and for our people to be on the land. He wants an independent Palestinian state.

DIE WELT: You're sitting here in your own home after several weeks of hiding underground. Is that over?
Yassin: That was a precaution. The Israelis crossed a red line in their fight against us. Which ultimately only shows how vulnerable we are to their attacks. That is why we counter-attack.

DIE WELT: Do the attacks seem to be slowing?
Yassin: The Israelis have stopped their assassinations for now. But they keep killing in other ways.

DIE WELT: Does that mean that you will carry out more bombings in Israel?
Yassin: Why not? As long as Palestinian civilians are victims of Israeli attacks, then Israeli civilians will also be victims.

DIE WELT: There were also civilian victims in Istanbul. What's your position on the bombings there?
Yassin (Looking surprised: Istanbul? His advisors tell him about the attacks on synagogues and British institutions in Turkey. He shakes his head in astonishment): The murder of Jews and Christians, who stay as guests under Islamic protection, I cannot support.

DIE WELT: Do you condemn those attacks?
Yassin: I know neither the objectives nor the identity of the attackers. Therefore I cannot support them.

If it wasn't already clear before reading this interview, the root causes of the Palestinian problem are (a) the Sheikh Yassins of this world believe it's their God-given duty to kill Jews (and Christians) until they agree to "live as guests under Islamic protection"; and (b) there is no Palestinian authority that is either willing or able to confront the Sheikh Yassins and implement a peace. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:09 PM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's editorial page editor Mark Trahant in Sunday's column:

Our goal is to reduce factual errors -- even on the opinion page.

Humans aren't perfect and we'll always get some things wrong.

But our political discourse is always better when we start a conversation sharing the same set of basic facts. Then, based on that information, we use our various world views to reach a conclusion.

I think the best way to do this is to listen closely to our critics. Especially those readers who pick apart our ideas, spelling or grammar word by word and sentence by sentence. Then we can figure out how to do it better next time.

We'll still make mistakes. When we do, we ought to clue readers in on our error right away. Then we might learn something and stop making that mistake -- so we can move on to new ones.

I think that's the right attitude for an opinion editor to have, and I appreciate Trahant's humility and light-hearted self-deprecation.

As far as I can tell, the P-I has never acknowledged any of their mistakes that I have pointed out in the past, although perhaps they will in the future. It would also help if they took responsibility for cleaning up after some of the fact-resistant syndicated columnists they publish, such as Robert Fisk, Helen Thomas, Alex Cockburn, Ted Rall, etc.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:50 AM
Letter to the Editor

The Seattle Times published my letter to the editor that pointed out some of Molly Ivins' false and misleading statements in her columns that appeared in the Times. Although getting a letter published is better than not getting a letter published, it took the Times almost four weeks from the time I e-mailed the first version of the letter until it was published, during which time they chose to print more of Molly Ivins' fiction on their editorial page (see here, here and here). They also cut out some of the more important parts of my letter. Here is the letter as it appeared, with the unpublished portions in bold:

Molly Ivins accuses the Bush administration of lying to the public about the Iraq war, but her own recent columns contain statements of dubious veracity.

In her Oct. 27 column " 'Lies' don't quite describe the devious deceptions," Ivins alleged that "administration officials" "lied" by sending 500 "faked" letters to American newspapers "in the names of serving soldiers without their knowledge or permission."

I assume she is referring to an incident reported by the Gannett News Service. No "administration officials" were involved. A single battalion commander, acting on his own, and later rebuked by his superiors, wrote a letter about events under his command. The letter was voluntarily signed by some of his troops and sent to various hometown newspapers. Gannett's reporter interviewed several of the soldiers in question, but could not produce a single soldier who disputes the letter's contents. Exactly one soldier out of the 500 has complained that the letter was sent without his knowledge and even he agreed with the letter's contents.

In her Nov. 3 column, "PR can't gloss over the tragic reality of Iraq," Ivins claimed that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz "is the one who promised us this war would be a 'cakewalk.' " I find no evidence that Wolfowitz or any other administration official ever made such a statement. I suspect Ivins missourced an opinion piece by former Reagan official Kenneth Adelman. Indeed, in an essay for Fox News last February, Adelman complained that Wolfowitz and other administration officials had denounced and disparaged Adelman's view that the liberation of Iraq would be a 'cakewalk'.

The public's interest in a serious debate about Iraq is not served by columnists who make false and misleading statements. The Times should require Ivins either to produce evidence for her questionable allegations or to issue an explicit retraction.

[sources: 1, 2, 3]

i.e. they took out the line that most forcefully refuted one of Ivins' false statements, they present none of my sources and they took out the most important line in the whole letter -- that it shouldn't only be up to readers to find mistakes in the newspaper, it should be the responsibility of the newspaper itself to correct the falsehoods that they themselves print. Needless to say, they have neither retracted nor substantiated Ivins' columns, relegating my comments to the letters section, four weeks late, and given no more weight than the letter from some poor woman who agrees with Ivins that "Were we lied to? Of course we were." on the basis of having read this revelation on the Seattle Times editorial page.

As a friendly observation to the Times: you will earn more credibility among your readers if you devote as much attention to editing your syndicated columnists as you do the letters from readers who take the time to point out your columnists' mistakes and deceptions.

In the meantime, I propose the following motto for the Seattle Times editorial page: "We edit the facts out, and edit the fiction in!"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
Today's Ivins

Today's Seattle Times did not print the Ivins column mentioned below. It printed this Ivins column

Here's the Bush administration hot to sell us on a new program that is supposed to make us want to increase our savings, weigh down our piggy banks and beef up our 401(k)s. As usual with the people in this administration, what they want to do mostly benefits the rich. But even setting that aside, like, don't you think it would be helpful if they started worrying about the fact that our 401(k)s already are being looted by the financial industry?

Maybe they could even consider doing something about it. Such a concept.

Or maybe, Molly, they actually are doing something about it. From the SEC's website:

Nov. 4, 2003 SEC Brings Fraud Charges Against Former Prudential Brokers in Connection with Market Timing of Mutual Funds

Nov. 13, 2003 Putnam Agrees to Make Restitution and Implement Immediate, Significant Structural Reforms in Partial Resolution of SEC Enforcement Action

Nov. 17, 2003 SEC Charges Morgan Stanley With Inadequate Disclosure in Mutual Fund Sales; Morgan Stanley Pays $50 Million To Settle SEC Action

Nov. 20, 2003 Founders of PBHG Funds and Pilgrim Baxter & Associates Charged With Fraud in Connection With Market Timing of PBHG Funds

But, of course, Molly Ivins' fictional narrative and the editorial pages that carry it wouldn't be nearly as entertaining if they only dealt with the real world.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
November 23, 2003
Molly, Saddam and Osama

In this week's screed against the Bush administration, Molly Ivins repeats the claim she made in last week's screed against the Bush administration:

there were no ties between Saddam and Osama bin Laden. But there they come again, with some leaked list of questionable intelligence trying to prove what isn't true.
Dismissing, apparently, the recent Weekly Standard reports, on the grounds that ... well, she'd rather not believe them.

But evidence for a link between Saddam and Osama seems to have been available to many people outside of the Bush administration:

The Guardian, February 6, 1999

Saddam Hussein's regime has opened talks with Osama bin Laden, bringing closer the threat of a terrorist attack using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, according to US intelligence sources and Iraqi opposition officials.
The Guardian October 19, 2000
Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's former head of counter-terrorist operations and a respected expert on Middle Eastern terrorism, said the timing, location and method of the attack [on the USS Cole] pointed to Bin Laden's terrorist network, al-Qaeda. ..."The Iraqis have wanted to be able to carry out terrorism for some time now," Mr Cannistraro said. "Their military people have had liaison with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and could well have supplied the training."

He said the theory was still speculative but was consistent with the series of recent contacts between Baghdad and the Bin Laden organisation.

Recall that Bill Clinton was President during 1999 and 2000.

Furthermore, James Woolsey, CIA director under Clinton, has been quoted many times alleging an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection. For example, in the Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2003 on the arrest of Saddamite intelligence kingpin Farouk Hijazi:

Former CIA Director James Woolsey said Hijazi's capture was "the biggest catch so far" for U.S. forces and that Hijazi is a key link between Saddam and terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida.

"This man was involved, we know, with a number of contacts with al-Qaida," Woolsey told CNN.

Then there is the Toronto Star April 28, 2003
Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization and Saddam Hussein's regime shared direct contact as early as 1998, according to top-secret Iraqi intelligence documents obtained by the Star.

The documents, discovered yesterday in the bombed-out headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Iraq's most feared intelligence service, amount to the first hard evidence of a link long suspected by the United States but dismissed as fiction by many Western leaders.

Molly Ivins, on the other hand, is willing to say with unassailable certainty that there were no ties between Saddam and Osama bin Laden. None. Zero. No wiggle room for the possibility that there were some ties that she hasn't heard about. And no facts to back up her assertions!

Which is another reason why Molly Ivins' column belongs not on the editorial page, but on the comics page with Zippy the Pinhead and other works of humorous fiction.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:40 PM
November 22, 2003
Anti-Semitism / Anti-Americanism

Natan Sharansky [no relation] explains the root causes of anti-Semitism in the Middle East

The values ascendant in today's Middle East are shaped by two forces: Islamic fundamentalism and state authoritarianism. In the eyes of the former, any non-Muslim sovereign power in the region--for that matter, any secular Muslim power--is anathema. Particularly galling is Jewish sovereignty in an area delineated as dar al-Islam, the realm where Islam is destined to enjoy exclusive dominance. Such a violation cannot be compromised with; nothing will suffice but its extirpation.

In the eyes of the secular Arab regimes, the Jews of Israel are similarly an affront, but not so much on theological grounds as on account of the society they have built: free, productive, democratic, a living rebuke to the corrupt, autocratic regimes surrounding it. In short, the Jewish state is the ultimate freedom fighter--an embodiment of the subversive liberties that threaten Islamic civilization and autocratic Arab rule alike. It is for this reason that in the state-controlled Arab media as in the mosques, Jews have been turned into a symbol of all that is menacing in the democratic, materialist West as a whole, and are confidently reputed to be the insidious force manipulating the United States into a confrontation with Islam.

The particular dynamic of anti-Semitism in the Middle East orbit today may help explain why--unlike, as we shall see, in Europe--there was no drop in the level of anti-Jewish incitement in the region after the inception of the Oslo peace process. Quite the contrary. And the reason is plain: To the degree that Oslo had succeeded in bringing about a real reconciliation with Israel or in facilitating the spread of political freedom, it would have frustrated the overarching aim of eradicating the Jewish "evil" from the heart of the Middle East and preserving the autocratic power of the Arab regimes.

and the root causes of anti-Semitism in post-war Europe:
Before 1967, the shadow of the Holocaust and the perception of Israel as a small state struggling for its existence in the face of Arab aggression combined to ensure, if not the favor of the European political classes, at least a certain dispensation from harsh criticism. But all this changed in June 1967, when the truncated Jewish state achieved a seemingly miraculous victory against its massed Arab enemies in the Six Day War, and the erstwhile victim was overnight transformed into an aggressor. A possibly apocryphal story about Jean-Paul Sartre encapsulates the shift in the European mood. Before the war, as Israel lay diplomatically isolated and Arab leaders were already trumpeting its certain demise, the famous French philosopher signed a statement in support of the Jewish state. After the war, he is said to have reproached the man who had solicited his signature: "But you assured me they would lose."
and the inextricable link between anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism
Despite the differences between them, however, anti-Americanism in the Islamic world and anti-Americanism in Europe are in fact linked, and both bear an uncanny resemblance to anti-Semitism. It is, after all, with some reason that the United States is loathed and feared by the despots and fundamentalists of the Islamic world as well as by many Europeans. Like Israel, but in a much more powerful way, America embodies a different--a nonconforming--idea of the good, and refuses to abandon its moral clarity about the objective worth of that idea or of the free habits and institutions to which it has given birth. To the contrary, in undertaking their war against the evil of terrorism, the American people have demonstrated their determination not only to fight to preserve the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity, but to carry them to regions of the world that have proved most resistant to their benign influence.
read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Brian of the Michael Medved fan blog

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:15 PM
It's in the P-I

Ted Rall is in the P-I.

On the P-I's editorial page is this Ted Rall cartoon which implies that suicide bombing is caused by impolite Israelis and checkpoints. First of all, the checkpoints are there for no other reason than to stop the terrorists, who happen to predate the checkpoints. Not to mention that none of the people who blew themselves up and murdered innocent people at the synagogues and British bank in Istanbul, or the police stations in Baghdad, or the American embassy in Dar es Salaam are even Palestinian or have ever been to an Israeli checkpoint.

Nevertheless, this cartoon passes the P-I's editorial standards for information and/or entertainment value. Just another fairytale, a little sicker than the other fairytales that regularly appear on the P-I's editorial page.

Perhaps that should be the "fairytarial page".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:20 PM
November 21, 2003
Seattle Monorail Fraud

The fraudulent Seattle Monorail project continues to fall far short of its revenue projections:

The tax collected just $2.17 million in October, about 30 percent below projections. Daniel Malarkey, the agency's finance director, said the project is working with the state Department of Licensing to close a loophole that allows Seattle residents to license their cars outside the city and the monorail's taxing authority.
The Monorail initiative passed in 2002 with the support of exactly 22.03% of registered voters and a margin of victory of 877 votes. This was hardly a mandate. The YES campaign won with the help of the aptly-named Malarkey's fraudulent financial projections.

The Monorail, which is supposed to be funded by a tax on cars of people who live in Seattle neighborhoods that are not served by the Monorail, won't be able to collect its hoped for revenues because many residents are registering their cars outside of the city to avoid the unfair tax. While state law requires people to register their vehicles at their primary residence, there is no statutory penalty for doing otherwise. Imposing such a penalty would appear to require an act of the state legislature, which I hope will not be forthcoming.

As I see it, the people who register their cars outside the city are committing an appropriate act of civil disobedience. Good for them. If more people do so, perhaps we can undo the Monorail fraud.

Meanwhile, Andy MacDonald, who will hopefully be resurrecting his excellent blog in the near future, e-mails:

how did Jeanne Kohl-Welles come to be on the Monorail Board? She is listed as an ex-officio member. But there is no provision in the Monorail charter for any ex-officio members. Somehow she is being given a privileged position in a feat of back-scratching worthy of Tacoma.
Good question, Andy. I wish I knew the answer. In the meantime, folks, be sure to register your cars outside the city limits.

[I should add that I don't know whether or not Andy agrees with my characterizations of the Monorail, only that he questions the presence of Jeanne Kohl-Welles on the board].

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:24 PM
Tom Plate

The Seattle Times editorial page takes a pause from its recent meltdown and prints a letter to the editor confirming that the habitually confused Tom Plate really is confused.

Tom Plate distorts my views and those of the state of Israel ("Israel and India: Exceptional, essential," syndicated column, Nov. 19).
Signed, Abraham H. Foxman, national director, Anti-Defamation League, New York, N.Y.

Ouch.

Read the whole of Foxman's letter

A friendly suggestion to the Seattle Times: There are plenty of columnists out there who are more knowledgeable, more insightful and more interesting to read than Tom Plate is.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:59 AM
Overhauling the UN

Solly Ezekiel reports some important support for his proposal to overhaul the UN

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:48 AM
Blaming the Jews for the Holocaust

Eric Alterman is a convenient poster child for those Jews who instinctively blame other Jews for causing anti-Semitism. But this particular fetish is not confined to self-absorbed left-liberal Americans like Alterman.

A.B. Yehoshua is one of Israel's most accomplished novelists. In a lecture last June:

Yehoshua initially said that Israel was making the Palestinians crazy, and he compared their situation to Germans who were affected by a foreign body in their midst. The next morning he asserted that he meant no comparison between Israel and the Nazis. However, his explanation of what he did mean suggested that the Jews were responsible for anti-Semitism and even the Holocaust. He said that Israel should not enter into the spiritual home of the Palestinians; that Jews had been without boundaries for 2,500 years and lived amidst other people who came to hate and direct anti-Semitism against them; and that only an exit from Palestinian territory could bring an end to terror.
[Synopsis by Ira Sharkansky from this news report in Hebrew]

The good news is that Thomas Friedman has learned of a Saudi peace plan that Eric Alterman and A. B. Yehoshua could wholeheartedly support!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:21 AM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer today demonstrates why its editorial page is little more than a collection of fairytales. Let's start with an inspection of today's lead editorial:

Fairytale #1. We are not at war with real people, we are at war with terrorism:

But as massive as the evil Hitler's Germany presented to the world was, the horror visited on Istanbul yesterday reminds us that the enemy threatening the globe with its evil today is more difficult to identify and target.
Actually, no, the horror visited on Istanbul reminds us that the enemy threatening the globe is very easy to identify (except, apparently, for the P-I): the enemy is called Militant Islam.

Fairytale #2. Bush lied

This may be nothing more than Bush's evolving justification for the Iraq war. With any Iraq-9/11 connection debunked, along with any short-term threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the administration is left with the "liberate-the-Iraqis" rationale.
The administration never implicated Iraq in 9/11, so what's this about such a connection being "debunked"? And the "liberate-the-Iraqis" rationale for the, uh, liberation of Iraq, has been cited all along.

Fairytale #3. The only dangerous people in the world are Osama Ben Laden and a handful of his supporters:

Still, Bush's stance could be taken by leaders in Syria, Lebanon, Libya, even Iran, as a warning that a nation need not pose a threat more demonstrable than having a non-democratic government to be considered a legitimate target of U.S. military force.
Actually, the above countries are under scrutiny not merely for being dictatorships but for sponsoring Militant Islam and terrorism.

Fairytale #4. The United States is acting "unilaterally" against the wishes of the rest of the world, who know better than we do.

Hitler's Germany wasn't defeated by a single nation. Neither will terrorism be. What should be "in plain sight" today is that international terrorism can be defeated only by a global alliance of governments willing to wage a multilateral battle against repression, injustice, human rights abuse and state support of terrorism with diplomacy, economic sanctions and military force when necessary.
Well, yes, which is why dozens of other countries are working with the US to rebuild Iraq and to defeat the other instantiations of Militant Islam. Unfortunately, not all countries have yet signed up for the fight. Fortunately, while the P-I is waiting for the Dream Team Coalition that includes France, Cameroon and Iran, the countries that have the resources and the will to wage the fight are doing so.

Fairytale #5. Islam is a Religion of Peace. In today's guest editorial which apparently passed the P-I's editorial standards for information value:

Islam is a peaceful religion. Some people misinterpret the teachings to suit their own agendas. The Christian who kills a doctor to protest abortion is not following the teachings of Jesus.
Of course, many Muslims do practice their religion peacefully. But the data from the real world informs us that the number of murders committed in the name of Militant Islam dwarves the number of doctors killed by anti-abortion Christians by six or seven orders of magnitude.


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:49 AM
Joni Balter: "What a load"

Joni Balter, the Seattle Times columnist who's been contributing more than her fair share to the recent meltdown over at the Times editorial page, earns this month's Soggy Kleenex Award for snot-nosed commentary:

On a long list of bogus arguments peddled by proponents of district elections for Seattle, the most hollow held that council challengers running citywide cannot raise enough money to beat incumbents.

What a load.

Funny, I don't recall anybody ever saying that challengers running citywide cannot raise enough money to beat incumbents, only that district elections would "Lower Campaign Costs".
The "no" [on district elections] campaign was a disorganized assortment of business interests, Green Party members and neighborhood activists. They raised less, they spent less. Voters heard their message anyway.
Joni Balter doesn't mention that the suburban owner/editors of the city's largest circulation newspaper were also part of the "no districts" campaign and were paying Joni Balter to write hatchet-job editorials in support of their self-interested position. And her salary doesn't have to be reported to the Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission! And neither does the cost of all that ink and paper!

What a load.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
November 20, 2003
World's Smallest Violin

If I may borrow a meme from James Taranto and Best of the Web, I play the World's Smallest Violin for the family of Tom Hurndall, the British terrorism enthusiast who was accidentally shot by an Israeli soldier whose activities he tried to obstruct. Ha'aretz reports that "State sends bad check to peace activist shot by IDF"

A Defense Ministry check, sent "without any admission of liability by the State of Israel and/or the Ministry of Defense" to the family of a International Solidarity Mission volunteer shot by an Israel Defense Forces soldier, bounced when the family tried to cash it earlier this week. The ISM volunteer was rendered incapacitated as a result of the gunshot wounds sustained last April.
The only cause for outrage here is Ha'aretz' characterization of Hurndall as a "peace activist". He was not a "peace activist", he was on the other side.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:13 PM
Altermendacity

In addition to lending his good name to the Alterman Award for Reflexive Capitulation and Pointless Appeasement, Eric "Oh That Liberal Media" Alterman could just as easily franchise his brand to several other awards. For example, we could have the Alterman Award for Spinning a News Item 180 Degrees in the Wrong Direction From the Altercation, Nov. 17, 2003

And how nice that right-wing American Jews are willing to fight for their ideology right down to the death of the last Israelis. Imagine, denouncing a peace plan for a country in which you do not even live…. Kind of gives chutzpah a bad name.
In fact, if you follow the link, you will see that the opposition is not to a peace plan as such, but to foreign officials who are trying to undermine Israeli democracy by supporting a peace plan that has little support among the Israeli public and is being promoted by the party that lost the last election.

Indeed, we could also offer the Alterman Award for Imperialistic Interference in the Internal Affairs of Sovereign Democracies

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:08 PM
Evil in Istanbul and London

The mass murderers in Turkey and the anti-Bush protesters in London are egging each other on

Tens of thousands demonstrators marched through the heart of London on Thursday, toppling a 17-foot tall papier mache statue of President Bush to show their anger for the Iraq war and Prime Minister Tony Blair's support of the invasion.
...
Many in the crowd said Thursday's bombings in Istanbul, which killed more than two dozen people, strengthened their resolve to oppose U.S.-British policy in Iraq.
As Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying, they're not "peace activists", they're on the other side.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:32 AM
Alterman Award

Today's Alterman Award for Reflexive Capitulation and Pointless Appeasement goes to the Pittsburgh Gazette for their editorial blaming last weekend's Istanbul synagogue bombings on ... Israeli self-defense in the disputed territories. Yes, if only the Jews didn't try to defend themselves from being slaughtered, the whole process would be faster and cleaner.

Also winning an Alterman Award is the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which theorizes that

The criminal attacks on the two synagogues in Istanbul were primarily aimed against Israel ... Even secular Turks are horrified when they see what is happening in the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories.
The FAZ and/or the Pittsburgh Gazette might just as well explain the Nuremberg Laws as, what, an understandable attempt to prevent Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip?

Source: Honest Reporting' e-mail letter.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:07 AM
November 19, 2003
Seattle Times Editorial Page Meltdown (II)

The meltdown over at the Seattle Times editorial page continues today with two editorials that don't understand Israel nearly as well as the writers think they do.

First there is the habitually confused Tom Plate, begging Israel not to abandon its democracy. In fact, I'm not aware of any serious voices in Israel that don't support a vigorous democracy. Plate is reacting to a speech given by the ADL's Abraham H. Foxman. I don't have a transcript for the speech, but it's hard for me to imagine that Foxman was calling on Israel to relax its democracy. I gather he was actually defending Israel's need to defend its, uh, democracy in the face of armed attacks by people who are trying to destroy it.

Meanwhile, just above Plate's column claiming to stand up for Israeli democracy, in today's unsigned editorial, the Seattle Times seems to think it knows more about safeguarding Israel's security than do the Israelis who actually live, pay taxes, serve in the military and vote in Israel's, uh, democracy. In Tough guys talk peace , the Times praises the four former heads of the Shin Bet who recently gave an interview in the Israeli Hebrew press speaking out against the Sharon government's policy toward the disputed territories. The editorial reads as if it was based solely on second hand reports from the American press, and not by, say, reading the actual interview or the follow-up commentary in the Israeli media. (I mention below the tepid reaction that the four ex-security chiefs are receiving in Israel). But here are just two examples from the editorial that point out the Times lack of knowledge and context on the subject:

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat? Israel cannot decide who is relevant. For now it's Arafat, deal with him. No negotiations until Palestinian authorities crack down on terrorists? That is an excuse for Israel to do nothing.
It's not obvious to me that the four ex-security chiefs are all calling on Israel to resume negotiations with Arafat. In fact, one of them, Carmi Gillon, was recently quoted as calling on the government to expel Arafat from the region, which is a more hawkish position than the government has been willing to take. (Unfortunately, the article is in Hebrew, so the Times' Israel experts probably can't read it).
An arrogant military presence and assassinations of leading militants stir more trouble than discourage attacks.
It's also not obvious that the four ex-security chiefs are all calling on Israel to suspend the assassinations of terrorists. In fact, one of them, Avraham Shalom, is merely suggesting that the assassinations be conducted in secret without harming civilians in the process. (Unfortunately, the article is on the Ha'aretz English website, so the Times Israel experts probably didn't bother to read it).

Finally, in what is perhaps the most supercilious line in any newspaper editorial in the last 50 years, the Times concludes:

Predictably, the loudest opponents will be those farthest from the conflict, the most adamant for the fight to continue, and the least tolerant of fresh views.
In fact, the loudest supporters seem to be those farthest from the conflict, the most eager for Israel to surrender at any cost and those least interested in hearing what actual Israelis have to say. Relatively few Israelis, as mentioned, seem to be getting excited about these four retired officials.

For the view of someone who is closer to the conflict than anybody at the Seattle Times ever will be, see below.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:41 PM
Another Israeli Reaction To The Four Israeli Ex-Security Chiefs

The American media seems to applaud the four Israeli ex-security chiefs who recently spoke out against the government's policy toward the disputed territories, and the Seattle Times says

Predictably, the loudest opponents will be those farthest from the conflict, the most adamant for the fight to continue, and the least tolerant of fresh views.
Here is the view of my father, who lives in Jerusalem. In the last few years, there have been two or three bus bombings in his neighborhood, I've lost count. He teaches political science at the Hebrew University, where last year's cafeteria bombing killed one of his students and put out the eye of a family friend. His youngest son, my half-brother, is a 19-year-old conscript in the IDF. I prefer not to think about what my half-brother has to do during his service, but I believe he has been in combat and will see more combat. My father is politically centrist, voting more often than not, I believe, with the winning plurality. He is not someone "farthest from the conflict" nor someone who is "adamant for the fight to continue". These are his thoughts on the four ex-security chiefs:
I saw a reply on your blog that is right on target. It is as if Ramsey Clark came back from history to comment on Bush and Iraq, wrapping himself as an expert in national security. Just last night one of the four former Shin Bet heads appeared on television in a pathetic demonstration of a man too old and slow to deal in difficult issues. He asserted that he was out of touch and could not offer advice to the current head of Shin Bet, then proceeded to offer advice that was no more than standard leftist platitudes.

The current head of the Shin Bet takes a much different approach. He recently said that Israel must press hard against the Palestinians in defense of Israeli civilians.

As you know, Israeli security forces encompass the breadth of political views.

I understand why this is the darling of international media. It suggests a split at high levels of the Israeli government. In fact, that's a chronic situation. This is an argumentative society; elite levels are more openly disputateous than those of counterparts in the US administration. Israeli splits look even more extreme if you include in a survey the previous holders of key positions.

While I wouldn't call my father "the loudest opponent" of the four ex-security chiefs' initiative, he obviously doesn't think that it's nearly as exciting as do the editors of Seattle Times, who, I might add, are as far from the conflict as one can possibly be.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:41 PM
Seattle Times Editorial Page Meltdown (I)

The meltdown over at the Seattle Times editorial page continues today. The lead unsigned editorial says: Schools should lead fight against obesity

A growing number of school districts around the country are taking bold action in the face of the childhood-obesity epidemic. It's time for more schools in this region to join the effort to confront this public health crisis.
Yes, the schools should do this. The schools should do a lot of things. Maybe once the schools manage to successfully lead the fight to, say, teach reading, writing and math we can talk about handing them some more fights to lead. In the meantime, maybe it's the, uh, parents who should lead the fight to feed their kids properly.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:13 AM
It's in the P-I

A young Seattle man, Said Aba Sheikh, was beaten to a pulp by some poorly supervised foster children. Sheikh suffered brain damage and other debilitating injuries that will require medical attention for the rest of his life. A jury ruled that the state Department of Social and Health Services was negligent in its poor oversight of the foster kids, and awarded the DSHS to pay Sheikh $8.8 million.

Today's editorial in Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Society must take care of Said Aba Sheikh for the rest of his life.

A King County jury understood that critical point and ruled in his favor against the state Department of Social and Health Services. But the jury's finding that the state was responsible for criminal acts by a group of young thugs cries out for an appeal.

Are taxpayers, through a state agency, responsible when kids in foster care join in attacking another teenager, leaving him with permanent physical and mental disabilities? On that point, we're not so sure. And DSHS should seek an answer from higher courts.

Yes, society should pay, as long as the taxpayers don't have to. The P-I deserves a Nobel Prize in Economics for coming up with that one.

No matter who pays, the one prediction I'm willing to make is that nobody at the DSHS will lose their job or their pension because of this.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
November 18, 2003
Israeli Ex-Security Chiefs Speak Out

A recent New York Times headline reads: 4 Israeli Ex-Security Chiefs Denounce Sharon's Hard Line

In a joint interview published Friday, four former heads of the Shin Bet security service delivered a blistering collective criticism of Israel's tough military policies toward the Palestinians, saying Israel urgently needed a political solution to the Middle East conflict.
...
Israel's largest circulation daily, Yediot Ahronot, splashed a huge front-page headline over the interview with the ex-chiefs of Shin Bet, or the General Security Service. "Four directors of G.S.S. warn: Israel in grave danger," read the headline above photos of the four, who ran the agency for nearly two decades. Interviewed, besides Mr. Ayalon, were Carmi Gilon, Yaakov Perry and Avraham Shalom.
I imagine there is something significant about this. On the other hand my experience with the American press leads me to assume that The New York Times isn't necessarily doing the best job of reporting this interview and putting into context.

I looked for the original article in Hebrew, but couldn't find it (The Yediot Aharonot website has an annoying and cumbersome registration process).

Rather than commenting on the report myself, I simply ask my Israeli readers for their reactions. Post your comments, please!

UPDATE The reaction over in Israel seems to be less enthusiastic than it is in the United States. The hawkish Jerusalem Post and Arutz 7 predictably condemn the four chiefs, as does the Debka File [Hebrew only]. The dovish Ha'aretz predictably applauds the move, but also recognizes that

the political constellation necessary for translating these positive developments into real political momentum has yet to coalesce.
In other words, the initiative doesn't seem to have much popular support. Which is also what Imshin says:
But what are people on the street saying?

Nothing. They’re not interested.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:26 PM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is taking a bold stand in favor of defeatism: In today's editorial, Rethinking the rebuilding of Iraq, the P-I criticizes the administration's evolving strategy for rebuilding Iraq, solely on the grounds that it is flexible and evolving:

The Bush administration's attempt to remake the Middle East in its own political image has taken on the look of a pickup flag football game, with wide receiver L. Paul Bremer scurrying back to the huddle late last week to help scratch new play plans in the dirt.
It's legitimate to ask whether or not the modified strategy is a wise one, but the P-I is not doing that, nor is it "rethinking" anything. The P-I is simply grasping for any excuse to trash the entire enteprise of transforming Iraq from a Ba'athist kakistocracy into a more decent society, as it has been doing for months:
This dramatic shift in transition strategy is evidence that the administration's original governance strategy -- like those of adequate troop strength and unilateral intervention -- was fatally flawed.
First of all, the liberation of Iraq, which had the public support of thirty countries (and the private support of several others), was not "unilateral", just because Saddam's favored trading partners declined to participate in his removal.

If the P-I has any ideas on how to improve the situation in Iraq other than to declare the liberation "fatally flawed" and to surrender and hand the Iraqis back over to the Ba'athist torturers, the P-I hasn't shared those ideas with its readers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:12 PM
Europeculation

The Europeaser Union's accounts fail to pass muster again:

The European Union's court of auditors has failed to give EU accounts a clean bill of health for the ninth year ... The auditors can give assurance to less than 10% of the European Union's annual budget for 2002, they say.
Hat tip: Arnold Roth, who asks:
Can you name one commercial entity with this kind of performance whose management team are OUT of jail?
Fortunately, the good people of Israel can rest safely knowing that the EU auditors are keeping careful tabs on all that money they insist on sending to Yassir Arafat.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:54 AM
November 17, 2003
If it's broke, fix it

When even the Italians accuse you of inefficiency, you might want to take heed

An Italian official in the U.S.-led coalition has resigned, accusing L. Paul Bremer's administration of inefficiency and failing to understand Iraq
We can't afford not to succeed in Iraq. If his criticisms are valid they need to be addressed and mistakes need to be corrected.

On the other hand, some of the official's other remarks leave me skeptical of his judgment:

He said only a U.N. administration could turn the tide.
Anybody who has faith in the competence of the UN does not win my confidence.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:46 PM
Lying Liars and the Editors who Sponsor Them

Lying liar Molly Ivins latest column is in today's Seattle Times [print version only], in its entirety, including the most blatantly false bit

There was no nuclear weapons program. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al Qaeda...
This in spite of my pre-emptive missive yesterday afternoon to editorial page editor James Vesely ("the final arbiter for material that appears in [the editorial] pages"). [Yes, Mr. Final Arbiter, Saddam Hussein really did have ties to Al Qaeda].

Granted, Mr. Vesely might not have received my e-mail in time to make any changes to today's newspaper. But given that I know without doubt that members of his staff, if not he himself, were aware of Molly Ivins numerous recent distortions of fact, would it not be his responsibility to his readers to check the facts on any of Molly Ivins columns? One would at least hope so.

So why would Molly Ivins' columns continue to appear unchecked, in spite of their defects? One can only speculate, but here are some theories:
1) Laziness /apathy
2) Insufficient staff for the exhaustive fact checking that Ivins requires.
2) Marketing reasons -- Molly Ivins is probably popular, and her loyal readers keep buying the newspaper whether or not Molly is honest
3) Partisan kinship
4) An attitude of "anything goes" on the editorial page.

In any case, Molly Ivins work belongs less to the category of editorial opinion and legitimate commentary than to the category of "humorous fiction" as one finds on the comics page.

James Vesely and the Seattle Times would do well to recognize that deliberately printing fiction as legitimate commentary does not increase readers' confidence in the rest of the paper's content.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:08 AM
Lying Liars (II)

Here is another Molly Ivins column from last week. (This one did not make it into the Seattle Times). Her argument is that it's legitimate for "liberals" to hate and disparage Bush without mercy, because "right-wingers" did the same to Clinton.

The day President Clinton tried to take out Osama bin Laden with a missile strike, every right-winger in America said it was a case of "wag the dog."
Emphasis on the word "every" is mine. It is certainly hyperbole, but let's concede that Ivins is really using the word "every" to mean not, say, "every single one", but "the vast majority". Because her point is to portray "right-wingers" [whatever those are] as uniquely hating Clinton in a way that the rest of the country did not, she is also implying that "liberals" could be expected to support Clinton. Fine. Let's test her claim against the media from "The day President Clinton tried to take out Osama bin Laden with a missile strike", August 20, 1998.

Here is a Salon column from August 21, 1998 by David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation, a publication that few would describe as right-wing and on whose masthead Molly Ivins is named as "contributing editor". The column is headlined: Did Bill wag the dog? Corn doesn't come right out and accuse Clinton of "wagging the dog", but he mentions that others in Washington are accusing Clinton of doing so, and he doesn't exactly rise to Clinton's defense. In fact, he says:

Some of us have long believed he is a fellow not to be trusted ... It's tough to argue that he doesn't deserve this... "Wag the Dog" has merely given a name to what has always been true: Presidents, when they assume their commander-in-chief duties, do not ignore political considerations.
Meanwhile, who was defending Clinton from the charges of "Dog Wagging" made by Clinton's liberal "friends" such as David Corn? The Republican leadership of Congress, that's who.
Many Republicans rallied behind President Clinton’s decision to bomb terrorist facilities in Sudan and Afghanistan. A handful of others, however, were skeptical about the timing
The "Many Republicans" included Newt Gingrich, Alfonse D'Amato, Dan Burton and others.

Helpful hint for interpreting the next Molly Ivins column: When she writes that "every" something does something-or-other, there's a good chance that only a "handful" of the something did the something-or-other, while "many" of the something did the opposite.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:07 AM
It's in the P-I

The Sunday Seattle Post-Intelligencer treated us to this gem of a column by Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe under the headline America is more divided than ever, which attempts to use the results of the latest Pew Research Center Political Landscape poll to mock George W. Bush's claim that he is more of a uniter than a divider.

As I always tell my readers, when you see a newspaper column that cites an opinion poll, always look at the actual poll results, especially when the column (a) appears in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and (b) includes a line like this one:

Bush began his presidency by having the United States secede from the earth.
Get ready to have some fun.
According to the survey, 34 percent of registered voters were Democrat, 33 percent Republican and 33 percent independent or other.
Yes, and what it means is that Bush is winning the hearts of former Democrats

The Pew's analysis:
Republican gains have come across the board, both geographically and demographically. The GOP has made significant increases in party allegiance in 13 of 50 states since 2000, and six of these 13 have been crucial swing states in recent elections such as Florida and Michigan. The Democrats have even lost some ground in states that have gone consistently to the Democratic candidate in recent presidential elections, such as California and Washington. In fact, the Democratic advantage in Blue states is now about what it was nationwide during Clinton's second term.
Hah. But I can understand why a Democrat columnist would get his panties in a twist over it.

Jackson:

As president, Bush has drawn lines in the sand too numerous to cross. The favorite, of course, is the post-9/11 declaration that ''either you're with us or you're with the terrorists.'' With such an all-or-nothing demand of allegiance from other nations, it is no shock that Americans could not agree on what ''patriotism'' means at home. Seventy-one percent of Republicans said they ''completely agree'' that they are ''very patriotic.'' Only 48 percent of Democrats said they completely agree.
True enough. But to put these numbers in context, we see that both Republicans and Independents consider themselves "very patriotic" in larger numbers than at any time during the Clinton administration. Even among Democrats, there are more who call themselves "very patriotic" than during most of the Clinton administration

Damn that George W. Bush, inspiring more Americans to love their country!

Jackson:

Even the gaps among white Democrats and white Republicans grew. In 1991, there was a 10-point gap in the question, ''We have gone too far in pushing equal rights in this country. In the new survey, the gap was 19 points. Fifty-five percent of white Republicans said the nation has gone too far, up from 46 percent in 1991, while 34 percent of white Democrats said the nation has gone too far, down from 36 percent.
Yes, but fewer whites say we have gone "too far in pushing equal rights" than during most of the Clinton administration.

While fewer blacks believe in the crutch of preferential treatment than at any other time in recent history

That nasty George W. Bush: dividing the country by inspring blacks and whites to believe in equal opportunity! And to love each other!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:06 AM
Gretta is back!

Gretta Duisenberg, wife of the then head of the European Central Bank, who earlier this year claimed that the Israeli occupation of the disputed territories is worse than the Nazi occupation of Holland, has placed herself back in the spotlight now that her husband has retired. She is also suing a journalist who made fun of her offer to serve as a human shield for Arafat.

I have no idea why, but everytime I hear the name "Gretta Duisenberg", the words "Regrettable Douchebag" pop into my head. I'm sure it'll pass.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
November 16, 2003
A pre-emptive fisking

The print-version of Sunday's Seattle Times gives us a sneak preview of Monday's opinion page:

Molly Ivins is glad the Bush administration is starting to set the stage for an exit policy in Iraq. If some liberal like her had brought it up, they'd all be accused of treason.
Fortunately, Ivins column appears online before it appears in the Monday Seattle Times, which gives me the opportunity to find its errors, and yes, alert the Times before the thing appears in print. The column is here. In addition to her habitually silly and/or disingenuous "analysis" of the news (Bush is pulling a "180" in Iraq and plans to "bug out before next year's election" ), we also have, no surprise, some blatantly false statements:
There was no nuclear weapons program. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al Qaeda...
1. The Kay report provided plenty of evidence that a nuclear weapons program still existed as did chemical and biological programs.

2. Of course Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda. Evidence of this has been publicly known for a long time. A comprehensive report on the subject appeared just the other day on the Weekly Standard, here.

I'm forwarding these observations to the Times' editorial editor. He probably still has time to edit Ivins' column and strike out the most egregiously bogus parts. It's one thing to print all varieties of opinion and analysis, no matter how loopy. But if the Times wants its readers to take its op-ed page more seriously than, say, its comics page, it should at least ensure that its syndicated columns are based on fact and not fiction.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:24 PM
Racism And The Seattle Media

Jim Miller has an interesting post titled "Racism And The Seattle Media"

From what I can tell, the Seattle newspapers and the Seattle television and radio stations treat race like most other news organizations in the United States. To nearly every story, they bring the same script, with one central message. Racism is a problem that whites have, and the victims of racism are always non-white, and almost always black.
He gives a number of examples of oddly biased reportage which follow the same script.

Here are a few more examples of racial bias in the local media:

1) "The Achievement Gap". Public school students from different ethnic groups show differing measures of academic achievement. On average, and on most measures, white students do better in school than Hispanic students, who do better than black students. On the other hand, East Asian students (Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese) display the strongest performance on most measures of achievement. In spite of the fact that the average East Asian student does better in school than the average white student, the local papers describe the phenomenon as :

the achievement gap between white and minority students
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Nov. 6, 2003 and
a nagging achievement gap between white and minority students.
Seattle Times, same day.

2) The notion that "diversity" is a good thing, as long as it means minimizing the participation of white people

We also have had one of the most diverse councils, especially compared with our population.

Several years ago, four of nine council members were minorities — 44 percent — in a city that at the time was roughly 75 percent white.

Joni Balter, Seattle Times October 16, 2003.

Balter's argument is that the composition of the city council (56% white in a city that is 75% white) should be applauded precisely because white people are "underrepresented" on it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:30 AM
Teaching Peace

The 2003 Palestinian Authority Textbook calls for jihad and martyrdom:

(Page 208): "Islam is Allah's religion for all human beings. It should be proclaimed and invite [people] to join it wisely and through appropriate preaching and friendly discussions. However, such methods may encounter resistance and the preachers may be prevented from accomplishing their duty… then, Jihad and the use of physical force against the enemies become inevitable…
But don't let that fool you, it really is a religion of peace.


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:48 AM
Some Predictions

Prediction #1
Eric Alterman will write that yesterday's mass murder at Turkish synagogues was "obviously caused by Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza".

Prediction #2
Bar Mitzvah students at Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson, Ohio ("a house of peace") will have no choice but to respond to the Turkish synagogue bombings by blowing themselves up at the Islamic Center of Greater Columbus

You read it here first.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:38 AM
November 15, 2003
Religion of Peace

A Turkish newspaper reported on Sunday morning that local police had arrested three suspects in connection with Saturday's bomb attack on two synagogues in the capital of Istanbul.

the paper had identified the suspects as two men and a woman. The woman was also said to be wearing a traditional Muslim headscarf, which is quite uncommon in the mostly secular Muslim state.
Imagine that.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:34 PM
All for one and one for all

A company called Infotel is suing Justene Adamec for apparently frivolous reasons. Jerks.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:16 PM
Women in Black

This afternoon I encountered a vigil of the morally retarded "Women in Black", holding signs that read WE STAND FOR JUSTICE and WE STAND FOR PEACE. (code for: "We oppose the liberation of Iraq, the removal of the Taliban from Afghanistan and Israel's self-defense against suicide bombers")

I asked three of the ladies how they plan to protest against today's mass murder at the synagogues in Istanbul. One said she hadn't heard about it, the other said she didn't have time to prepare a protest, the other said she protests against it. Sure she does. Alert me please, if anybody ever finds an instance of the "Women in Black" protesting a single act of violence committed by an Islamo-fascist.

Justice and Peace, my ass.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:48 PM
November 14, 2003
Burg and Kristallnacht

A private e-mail from someone at the Seattle Times, in response to my observation that the anniversary of Kristallnacht was not a good day to publish Avraham Burg's self-flagellatory op-ed:

Nobody had the foggiest notion that it was the anniversary of Kristallnacht, because Kristallnacht is not date we keep track of. Nor was the piece by Burg about Kristallnacht. It was about Israel in 2003. It is beyond me how you, or that woman we printed the next day, to assume that we were "commemorating" or commenting on an event in Germany in 1938.

Another comment: I don't think anything that happened in Germany in 1938 creates a moral claim on Palestinian territory in 2003.
I have no reason to believe that the anniversary of Kristallnacht was deliberately or even consciously chosen as the date to publish the Burg piece. But, "we didn't know" is no excuse for a newspaper to make. It's the newspaper's job to know. In particular, it is the job of the opinion section to place current events in their broader context. When the opinion editors select an op-ed for publication, it's their job to know whether the piece has a sound factual basis, whether the analysis is sensible, what the author's agenda is, and how the piece intersects with the rest of the day's news.

As for the connection between Kristallnacht and the Burg piece -- Chaya Siegelbaum's op-ed which the Times printed (and to which the above e-mail alluded), explained it flawlessly, but here it is in my own words:

Of course, the crimes of Germany in 1938 do not create a "moral claim on Palestinian territory". But there are historical parallels between the plight of the German Jews in 1938 and today's Israeli Jews and there are lessons to be learned from the experience of 1938.

Burg's essay, which was first published in an Israeli daily newspaper, is a perfectly valid contribution to Israel's own internal debate over its security policy. That Israel engages in such a debate and that a diverse spectrum of voices are heard is one of Israel's greatest sources of strength versus its rigidly censored tyrannical adversaries. But in isolation, as a window into current Israeli thinking, it is utterly without balance.

The essence of Burg's argument is that Palestinian violence is caused by Israeli injustice and that if, and only if, Israel behaves differently toward the Palestinians will the two peoples co-exist in peace.

But that argument seems to ignore the long experience of Jews and Arabs living in the Levant and the dynamic of the conflict. Before the 20th century, Palestine was merely a sparsely populated backwater of an Ottoman province that had both Jewish and Arab communities and a lot of vacant land. Jews started immigrating to Palestine in larger numbers in Ottoman days, as did Arabs. The Jewish intention was to form a homeland, while the Arab animus was to prevent the formation of any Jewish entity. (Jews were only ever tolerated in the Arab world as second class citizens under Muslim rule). At every successive stage in the conflict --1930s, 1948, 1967, 2000 -- there is a Jewish/Israeli offer to share the land, an Arab rejection of sharing, followed by Arab violence, an Israeli military victory which leaves the Arabs with even less land than they had earlier, and then an Arab vow to continue the struggle until final victory, condemnation of Israel by the "international community" and offers from the Israeli peace camp to make the Arabs whole for Israel's sins.

Anybody who doubts that the Arab intention is not just to end the "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza but to eliminate Israel as a sovereign Jewish entity should consider at the very least the following: (1) The fundamental documents of the Palestinian national movement, e.g. the Palestinian National Charter and the Hamas Charter, which spell out the intentions in the most explicit detail; (2) the fact that Arabs act on these intentions by attacking not only installations in the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza, but by murdering civilians inside Israel. This can only be regarded as an attempt at ethnic cleansing (There is also the fact that Arab terror attacks against Jewish civilians pre-date Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by several decades).

Still, there seems always to be a faction in any Jewish community that responds to external threats with the questions: "What are we doing to make them hate us? And what can we surrender to prevent them from attacking us?" Avraham Burg and the Israeli peace camp are doing that today. There were also many Jewish Germans who were asking the same questions about the Nazis back in the 1930s. (An excellent book on the subject is John Van Houten Dippel's Bound upon a Wheel of Fire). In spite of Hitler's unambiguous anti-Semitic rhetoric, followed by the Nuremberg Laws, the boycott of Jewish businesses and the elimination of Jews from the schools and the professions, the response of many German Jews was to try to placate and accommodate the Nazis and to make concessions. Kristallnacht and the events that followed illustrated the foolishness of such a course of appeasement.

Again, Burg has every right to try to persuade his fellow Israelis of the soundness of his proposals. In fact, he has taken advantage of his many opportunities to do that and his message has largely been rejected. I commend the Seattle Times for taking an interest in Israel and attempting to inform its readers about Israel. But to publish a discredited, minority opinion in isolation and without a broader context does less to inform than to mislead. And especially on a day when many are remembering Kristallnacht, it is particularly klutzy to feature a leader of a Jewish community calling for the appeasement of those who seek to destroy it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:12 PM
Quagmire in Germany

Martin Hohmann, the German parliamentarian who blames the Jews for creating Stalin, has been banished from the Christian Democrat faction in the Bundestag. Hohmann's supporters are organizing to get him reinstated.

Meanwhile, a general in charge of an elite special forces unit has been sacked for supporting Hohmann's anti-Jewish remarks.

Still no end in sight to the quagmire of de-nazification.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:07 PM
Useful Britons and Famous Belgians

Two very useful British bloggers came to my attention this week:

Scott Burgess of the Daily Ablution ("Washing brains since 2003") draws a bead on the "human shields" who went to Iraq last winter to protect the locals from being liberated:

So why aren't the human shields "trying everything" to protect Iraqi civil society now, when it most needs it? Why isn't the peace crowd out in the streets, screaming at the top of their lungs about terrorist bombers who callously kill "equally precious, equally important" Red Cross wokers and Iraqi civilians?
Why, indeed.

Robert Hinkley of The Sporadic Chronicle ("tested on humans, not on animals") e-mailed to point out that the article I linked to earlier about preparations for Bush's upcoming visit to London misused the words of a British police official:

John Stevens, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC): "We are at the highest alert we have ever been. ... We are working more than 2-1/2 times harder than we did at the very height of the Irish terrorism campaign."
In fact, Stevens was not refering to security measures for Bush's visit, but for the entire battle against Islamist terrorism. Not a small difference.

The best link that I found at The Sporadic Chronicle is to a website called Famous Belgians (Detailed information on 248 Famous Belgians!). Among the "Famous Belgians" listed are Jules Vandenpeerebom, Belgian Prime Minister from 1899-1899 and Bob Davidse, TV presenter better known as "Nonkel Bob" (Uncle Bob) from "Tip Top". The list inexplicably excludes my favorite famous Belgian and the only famous Belgian I am honored to claim as a personal acquaintance: Gaston Bastiaens.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:40 AM
Self-fisking British Leftists

Volunteers in London are preparing for George Bush's visit next week

They are building a 10-foot-high likeness of the president that they plan to topple, à la Saddam Hussein's statues in Iraq.
Next thing you know, those "volunteers" will be coming to the United States to liberate all of Bush's torture victims from the prison camps and also dig up a mass grave or two.

On the other hand, things are worse in Paris.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Scrupleless in Seattle

Now for a tale of governmental arrogance, corruption and contempt for both the law and the public that surprised even the jaded cynics here at the Shark Blog. Although the specifics involve King County and Washington State, I now wonder how often this kind of stuff happens elsewhere in the country. (Quite a lot, I imagine).

It all started back in 1996-1997 when Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen proposed to purchase the Seattle Seahawks, on the condition that Washington voters would approve a public financing measure to replace the Kingdome with a new stadium. Local officials, including Governor Gary Locke and King County Executive Ron Sims, campaigned for the ballot measure, reassuring the voters that outside studies supported the reconstruction and financing plan.

Voters approved the package in a special election in 1997 and the new stadium was completed in 2002 at a total cost to the public of about a billion dollars, including construction costs, infrastructure improvements and bond interest.

Back in 1997 a Seattle hotel owner named Armen Yousoufian petitioned King County under the state's Public Disclosure Act for related documents, such as the "outside studies" that Sims and Locke cited to lobby the voters to support the stadium. But instead of delivering the documents as required by law, the County has engaged Yousoufian in a years-long battle of stonewalling, foot-dragging and lawsuits. In 2001, a judge ordered King County to pay Yousoufian over $100,000 in fines and attorney fees, the state's largest award ever for violations of the Public Records Act. The county continues to stonewall requests for additional documents. Legal appeals are in process.

I heard Yousoufian give a talk the other day. His story was astonishing both for the documents that county officials have tried to hide from the public and for the lengths they have gone to obstruct Yousoufian's access to public records. For example, various "outside studies" that supported less costly alternatives to the $400 million new construction were buried and redone until one report finally gave the answer that Paul Allen and the county officials were looking for. It took years for Yousoufian to get hold of the documents that even confirmed the existence of the buried studies, let alone the studies themselves.

What emerges is a picture of, in essence, a large-scale fraud and cover-up. If Sims and Locke had not lied to the voters before the 1997 election, the costly stadium measure may well have failed. I don't believe there is any evidence of outright kickbacks to elected officials. But at least one senior aide to Gary Locke who served as a liaison to Paul Allen took a job on Allen's payroll shortly after finishing up the public's end of the business. Equally unsettling, a local newspaper reporter who softballed his coverage of the stadium deal went on to work for Allen's PR firm. It's not exactly clear why Locke and Sims were so motivated to pull a fast one on the taxpayers. I suspect it was mainly about (1) not wanting to "lose the Seahawks" on their watch; (2) the hundreds of millions of dollars in patronage and construction jobs they got to hand out. Meanwhile, most of us taxpayers get hosed.

There are other troublings aspects. In spite of the Public Records Act, as Yousoufian discovered

What a county councilman told us off the record ... is when the county has documents it doesn't want you to see or can lead to damages, the unwritten policy is don't release them...Usually... the requester just goes away. If not, the county will take its chances with a public disclosure lawsuit, which can be costly for a citizen to wage.
Creepy, no?

Meanwhile, there are more large-scale public work projects underway that also have an appearance of fraud: The Seattle Monorail, the light-rail system and Paul Allen's plan for a "biotech hub" that for some reason is said to require a public "investment" of $500 million.

To learn more, go read the collection of articles at Armen Yousoufian's website. If you live in the area, try to catch one of Yousoufian's occasional public talks about his lawsuit. And pay close attention the next time a public official asks for hundreds of millions of dollars to build something. Especially when Ron Sims or Paul Allen are involved.

UPDATE To contact Yousoufian directly for more information or notices of his upcoming public appearances: ayousoufian .At. comcast.net

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
November 13, 2003
Deepening Quagmire in Germany

Martin Hohmann, the German parliamentarian who recently cited Henry Ford's "The International Jew" as evidence that Jews were no less culpable than Nazis, may be expelled from the CDU faction for his anti-Semitic remarks. But many rank and file CDU members are rallying to Hohmann's defense. One CDU delegate has even been threatened with violence over the impending expulsion vote.

De-nazification is taking longer than the Bush administration promised us it would. Liars.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:16 AM
Pilgrimage of Peace

Four Israeli Arabs were recruited by Hamas while on a pilgrimage to Mecca

The four, who live in the Galilee and were students at universities in Jordan, were allegedly recruited while on a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. There, they allegedly were trained to take weapons apart and put them together, Army Radio reported.
The four were allegedly ordered to gather intelligence about bus schedules, security aboard buses, and security at malls and other crowded locations, which Hamas apparently intended to use to help plan terror attacks against Israeli targets.

The pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the most sacred rituals of the Religion of Peace.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:59 AM
November 12, 2003
Floyd McKay

But publishing the Avraham Burg op-ed on Kristallnacht isn't the only sign of a clue deficit on the Seattle Times editorial page this week. Today we read Floyd McKay's error-filled celebration of the so-called "Geneva Accord": Voice of Hope in the Middle East. Among McKay's more creative interpretations were that:

The Geneva Accord, announced Oct. 14, was negotiated by what remains of Israel's peace movement and moderate Palestinians.
In fact, the Palestinians behind the Geneva Accord included solid members of the terrorism infrastructure, such as leaders of the murderous Tanzim militia and current and former PA officials acting with Arafat's blessing. If these guys are "moderates" then the word "moderate" has no meaning.
Palestinians would surrender a "right of return" to former homes within Israel.
In fact, the published text of the Accord leaves open the details of the "refugee" question and the number of "refugees" that Israel will be compelled to accept as part of a final settlement.
The Geneva Accord process also gained an endorsement from United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
If anything, the endorsement of a reflexively anti-Israel body such as the UN should be a red flag to anybody with a stake in Israel's existence.
Until the settlements — or certainly most of them — are removed, the West Bank will be occupied territory, and militants will continue to violently oppose the occupiers.
The "militants" were murdering Israeli Jews well before Israel found itself in possession of the West Bank.
In the ensuing period, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the intifada, Palestinian suicide bombers and Israeli tanks and bulldozers have made dialogue difficult and even dangerous. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Arafat, was assassinated for engaging in dialogue.
Oh sure, Israeli self-defense is morally equivalent to the deliberate and indiscriminate murder of civilians. But Rabin was not assassinated for "engaging in dialogue". He was murdered by an extremist who felt he was "acting on the orders of God". Every Israeli leader before and since Rabin, including Netanyahu and Sharon, have engaged in dialogue.
Negotiators Abbo [sic] and Beilin are veterans of the conflict, and perhaps part of a new wave of leadership in the region
New wave of leadership? Rabbo (not Abbo) is nothing new, he has been working with Arafat for decades. As for the likelihood that Beilin will ever lead Israel, this recent poll indicates that Beilin is one of the least popular even among the widely unpopular opposition figures.
Because of our sponsorship of Israel, we have little credibility with Arab governments.
It might be more useful to point out that most Arab governments have little credibility with either the American or the Israeli public.
The Geneva Accord was financed by Britain, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway, and could help balance America's pro-Israel tilt.
The Geneva Accord has been rejected by the vast majority of the Israeli public, who understand it better and have more at stake in the process than, say, the terrorism appeasers over in Norway. The Geneva Accord doesn't seem to be a big hit with enough Palestinians to matter, either. Presumably because it permits some shred of a Jewish state in the final stage of the process.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, his chronic ignorance and moral obtuseness, Floyd McKay's column appears in the Seattle Times every week.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:51 PM
Commemorating Kristallnacht at the Seattle Times

The Seattle Times commemorated Kristallnacht this year by printing a bizarre screed by Avraham Burg, a leader of Israel's opposition Labor Party.

The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly.
Why the Times chose to print Burg's three-month old essay on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, of all days, is beyond me.

Burg's polemic, which, among other things apologizes for suicide bombing as a natural response to poverty will undoubtedly reinforce the worldview of those who, for various reasons, can't stand the thought of a Jewish nation defending itself.

They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.
The Times could at the very least have put Burg's op-ed in context by reminding its readers that Avraham Burg failed in his quest to lead his party, which in turn failed in its quest to lead the nation. Burg claims that
The opposition does not exist
But of course the opposition does exist, and Burg is part of it. The real problem is that the solutions offered by Burg and his opposition colleagues have little public support. Having failed to persuade the voters of Israel, Burg takes his message around the world looking for anybody who will listen:
What is needed is a new vision of a just society and the political will to implement it. Nor is this merely an internal Israeli affair. Diaspora Jews, for whom Israel is a central pillar of their identity, must pay heed and speak out.
To give an American analogy, Avraham Burg complaining in American newspapers about the winner of last year's Israeli election would be like Jeanette Rankin tirading in the overseas press in 1943 against Roosevelt and American involvement in World War II.

Based on the response in the Times Letters to the Editor pages (here and here). Burg's message resonates with two groups of people: Palestinians who want Israel to disappear, and self-absorbed American Jews for whom Israel is a form of moral recreation and who presume to know more about how to deal with the threats facing Israel than do the people who actually live and vote in Israel.

To the Times' credit, they also published Chaya Siegelbaum's well-written response to Burg, which concludes:

May next year's Kristallnacht be recognized with more-balanced coverage.
Indeed.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:58 AM
November 11, 2003
Affordable Housing Crisis

Here in Seattle, "affordable-housing activists" such as John Fox tell us we have an "affordable housing crisis".

The root causes of the "affordable housing crisis" are perfectly simple: Enough people are willing to pay enough money to live in Seattle that they bid up the prices of the existing housing stock to the point of pricing some folks out of the housing market. What are the natural ways to lower housing prices? Either discourage people from living here or increase the supply of housing. [Destroying the city's public schools might help depopulate the city, but we'll save that issue for another time]. A particularly good way to lower prices through increased supply would be to remove height restrictions on new buildings. So you'd expect the "affordable-housing activists" such as John Fox to be tickled pink and delighted with Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' latest proposal, which "considers allowing taller buildings and more dense development downtown"

Nickels said he would like to see proposals that would create much more downtown housing
Sounds like a good idea to me. But wait
"If the mayor does not undertake a true cost analysis associated with turning our city into another Manhattan or Vancouver, I believe he won't be around for a second term," said affordable-housing activist John Fox.
The most debilitating cause of the "affordable-housing crisis" may well be the epidemic of economic ignorance among the self-appointed "affordable-housing activists".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:49 PM
Asinine News File

In a recent asinine item, the Ass. Press lists what it calls Recent terror attacks around the world. The list of 16 items dating back to August 1998 does not include a single incident of terrorism inside Israel, during which time several hundred Israelis have been murdered in dozens of terror attacks.

Credit: Honest Reporting

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:33 AM
Iranian Nukes

The United Nations says there is "no evidence" that Iran has sought to build a nuclear bomb.

The UN joins the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in not asking the question:

"Why would a country with enough oil and natural gas reserves to meet its electricity requirements for centuries into the future bother to build a nuclear-powered electrical plant?"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Palestinian Finances

A report just released by the IMF reveals that

Some 8 percent of the Palestinian Authority's budget is managed by a single individual, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat, recall, is the person whom Nobel Peanut Laureate Jimmy Carter recently described as having
practically no authority even among his own people
The IMF also reveals that
some $900 million in PA revenues "disappeared" during the period in question and was transferred from the Palestinian Finance Ministry to unknown destinations
and furthermore
The IMF report also reveals, for the first time, the official number of security personnel registered as receiving wages from the PA - 56,128, almost 20,000 more than the number that appears in the Oslo Accords. The document criticizes the fact that some of the security personnel receive their wages in cash through the heads of the various security mechanisms.
Imagine that.

The lion's share of the PA's budget comes from the Europeaser Union, which, coincidentally, has declined to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq because

there was no legitimate government in Iraq to which the EU could give any money.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
November 10, 2003
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog

As promised, Clayton Cramer launched his blog of Civilian Gun Self-Defense incidents.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:31 PM
Somebody is Killing Israeli Babies

Three Israeli infants have died and at least 20 have been diagnosed with central nervous system damage after being fed Remedia brand baby formula. Israeli investigators have determined that the formula, which is manufactured in Germany, is lacking the essential nutrient vitamin B-1.

Humana, the German manufacturer, insists that the formula does contain B-1. A Der Spiegel report indicates that Humana produces a special batch of the formula for the Israeli market, which is supervised for Kashrut by a team of Rabbis. Israeli law enforcement and intelligence agencies have not yet ruled out the possibility of sabotage.

Meanwhile, in a possibly unrelated development, the Europeasers at the UN are expected to abstain on a General Assembly vote to condemn terrorist attacks on Israeli children

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:11 PM
Caveat Lector

The Seattle Times seals its campaign against district elections for the Seattle City Council with today's editorial: Astute Seattle voters say 'no' to districts :

Seattle voters are a discerning lot. They read, they study public-policy issues, and nine times out of 10, they make an astute decision.
I think "apathetic" might be a more appropriate "A"-adjective than "astute". As I pointed out the other day, voter turnout fell to 35% from 52% four years ago. Only 18% of registered voters cast their vote to defend the current at-large electoral system. And how astute were these voters? Those who relied on the Times slanted, mendacious and self-interested editorials against district elections were not so much astute as they were gullible.

The popular campaign for district elections will continue, in spite of the opposition of the various suburban newspaper editors. In the meantime, the best advice I can give to those who rely on newspaper editorial pages for information and analysis: caveat lector.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:45 AM
Lying Liars and the Editors Who Sponsor Them

Molly Ivins' column appears each Monday in the Seattle Times [print only]. Two weeks ago her column contained some amazing lies, I wrote to Times to debunk Ivins' fallacies and ask for a retraction, I received no response. Last week her column repeated the lie from two weeks ago, and added another lie. I wrote to the Times to remind them of the first fallacy, to debunk the second fallacy and to ask for a retraction. They asked me to revise my letter for publication. I submitted a revised letter last Wednesday (5 days ago) and received this immediate response from the letters editor:

Thanks for the effort. I have another letter on this and if I see any duplication of ideas between the two, that will give me a place to edit. Otherwise, I may just let you run long. Will advise publication date.
She hasn't yet advised me on the publication date and my letter has not appeared. Neither has the "another letter on this". Nor has the Seattle Times done anything else to retract the fallacies of the columnist they choose to publish. In the meantime, Molly Ivins' latest column appears in today's Seattle Times and it contains, you guessed it, some more lies. The issue is not whether or not they print my letter, or if and when it appears. The issue is whether the Times cares enough about journalistic standards and their readers to keep false and misleading statements off their own pages.

In this week's Ivins column, there is both an outright lie and a weasely non-admission of an earlier lie. First, the latter:

Right-wing commentators have ignited yet another pointless debate, this one on the burning topic of whether the administration actually told us we were going to war because Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction posed an "imminent threat." The right-wing choir is suddenly singing, "He never said imminent,' he never said imminent," (they are so very good at all singing off the same page)....
The excellent blogger and journalist Josh Marshall, in a column for The Hill, points out that it may be true no member of the administration ever used the words threat and imminent in conjunction. True, when asked if Iraq were an imminent threat, various spokesmen really did say, "Yes," with varying degrees of emphasis. They said the threat was "mortal," that it was "urgent," that there was "clear evidence of peril." They said that we could not wait – BUT, they did not say "imminent threat." That sure as hell reassures me that we we're not dealing with delusional leaders. Now why exactly did they tell us we were going to war?
It's not a "pointless debate", it's a debate about the honesty and competence of many in the opposition and the press, and "right-wing choir" "singing on the same page"? Please. Molly Ivins is herself one of those in the, uh, choir of dishonest and/or incompetent journalists who routinely distorted the administration's statements. May 8, 2003:
[President Bush] said Saddam Hussein was a clear and present danger who posed an imminent threat to the United States
And it doesn't matter how angry Molly Ivins is or how badly she wants to deflect attention from her own sub-standard journalism, "imminent" does not mean the same thing as "mortal".

Molly Ivins' outright lie of the week is

On Iraq, we are now in a weird new political configuration where the professional patriots who so nastily accused those who opposed this venture of being "unpatriotic" and insisted we must "support the troops" at any price are now sort of dismissing dead soldiers. Dead soldiers are not a big story – a big story is all the progress we're making in Iraq.
Molly Ivins is particularly good at alluding to vague phenomena without including any details, so maybe there really is a "professional patriot" out there who dismisses dead soldiers. Who is he? Ivins doesn't say. I suspect she's still trying to milk the discredited canard about George Nethercutt, who didn't dismiss dead soldiers, but in fact, honored our fallen soldiers by reminding us that they served an important mission. In other words, Ivins told another lie and the editors of the Seattle Times and the other newspapers that publish her column are accomplices to her dishonesty.

These observations seem to apply here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:15 AM
November 09, 2003
Here and There, Nov. 9

Today is the 65th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Two days later:

Perhaps to help insure the Jews could not fight back in the future, the Minister of the Interior issued regulations against Jews' possession of weapons on November 11. This prohibited Jews from "acquiring, possessing, and carrying firearms and ammunition, as well as truncheons or stabbing weapons. Those now possessing weapons and ammunition are at once to turn them over to the local police authority."
Anybody who wants to prevent law-abiding Americans from owning firearms should print out the above paragraph and tape it to their refrigerator door.

Ralf Goergens says that although he was originally outraged by the EU poll in which a majority of Europeans named Israel as the greatest threat to world peace, he concludes that the poll is largely meaningless.

Yasser Arafat is the undisputed boss of the Palestinian "security forces"

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has come out the winner after weeks of bitter political infighting with his prime minister, keeping his grip on security forces and putting a handpicked confidant in the post of interior minister.
Yasser Arafat, recall, is the man whom Nobel Peanut Laureate Jimmy Carter described recently as having
practically no authority even among his own people
I wonder if Jimmy might be suffering from an extreme case of Freudian projection.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:17 PM
Responsible Gun Ownership

I would like to thank Michael Moore for motivating me to consider purchasing a firearm.

Moore's Academy Award-winning "documentary", Bowling for Columbine, which made all sorts of false and misleading statements in order to equate criminal firearm use with responsible gun ownership, inspired me to learn more about guns and the safe and responsible ownership and use of guns -- primarily for defending myself and my family.

Yesterday I took a day-long course called Basic Handgun Safety and Responsibility, given by the Insights Training Center in Issaquah. It was very interesting and useful. We learned the fundamental rules of gun safety, the basic technology of handguns and ammunition, basic gun care and maintenance and laws about concealed carry and justified use of deadly force in Washington. We also got some good hands-on practice shooting various handguns, starting with .22 revolvers, advancing to .38 and .357 magnums, and 9mm and .45 semi-automatics. Insights also offers more advanced training in defensive gun use, as well as in other forms of self-defense. The overall message of the course was: learn how to use a gun, but perhaps more importantly, learn how to not use a firearm. That message permeated everything from the basic safety rules like keeping the gun pointed down-range at all times, to the advice about dealing with intruders in the home (avoid a direct confrontation if you can). Sounds about right to me.

I'm leaning toward buying a handgun, but before I do this I'm going to spend some more time renting different models at the firing range to learn which weapon would fit me the best. I welcome any advice that any of you have about gun ownership, such as recommendations of specific models of handguns, and input regarding the if, when and how of carrying a concealed weapon. Feel free to post a comment (anonymously if you prefer) or to send me a private e-mail. Thanks in advance.

UPDATE A reader from Sonoma County e-mails to ask if I can recommend any gun safety courses in the Bay Area. I do not know of any, but perhaps some of my readers do?

UPDATE 2 Clayton Cramer is considering starting a blog of civilian defensive gun uses. I hope he does.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:59 PM
November 07, 2003
Whose side is Howard Dean on?

Howard Dean is the candidate of choice for the bloated and inefficient public sector:

Dean won backing from the largest AFL-CIO affiliate, the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union (search), and secretly lined up support from another.

The 1.5-million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (search) is set to endorse Dean jointly with the SEIU next week

Think of it this way the next time you're waiting in line at the DMV: George W Bush is on the side of those who are standing in line, Howard Dean is on the side of the slow-moving people behind the counter.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:08 PM
It's the economy, stupid

Stronger U.S. economic growth

has begun to bolster the nation's weak labor markets, with the number of payroll jobs up in each of the past three months and the unemployment rate falling to 6 percent, its lowest level since last spring, the Labor Department reported this morning.
A total of nearly 300,000 new jobs have been created in the last three months.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:47 PM
Seattle Election Results

King County posted the latest update to the vote count this afternoon, to include 90% of the absentee ballots. No changes to the projected outcomes that have already been reported -- three incumbent City Council members appear to be ousted as are the three incumbent school board members. The district elections referendum appears to have been conclusively defeated.

Voter turnout was a distrubingly low 35% -- only 127,644 out of 362,270 registered voters bothered to vote. Four years ago in a similar non-mayoral election, 182,729 out of 352,090, or 52% showed up at the polls.

This year's low rate of participation means that the new School Board and City Council members each had the support of somewhere in the range of 15 - 19% of the city's registered voters. I hope none of them will start acting like this is any kind of a mandate.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:46 PM
It's in the P-I

Deborah Bach, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's education reporter, wrote yesterday that

None of the [newly elected School Board] members have said they favor taking Seattle Public Schools in a radically different direction, but some have emphasized the need to re-examine district policies and expenditures, particularly with the view of closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.
First of all, the new board members consistently advocate some extremely nutty ideas.

Second, while there is an achievement gap between different ethnic groups and it is a serious problem that we should all be concerned with, it is misleading to characterize it as "between white and minority students". In fact, school district data [large PDF] shows that East Asian students (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese) generally outperform all others. Perhaps reframing the debate around "the achievement gap between East Asian students and everybody else" will give us a clearer understanding of the factors involved in academic achievement and suggest ways to help underachieving students.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:50 AM
November 06, 2003
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is calling for public financing of political campaigns.

After this year's election, Seattle may be ready to tackle the role of big contributors again. All the Legislature has to do is get the state out of the way of local governments.

But a grass-roots group has also begun looking at raising the issue statewide, likely in 2005. Washington Public Campaigns says experience in Arizona and Maine has shown that public financing can create more competitive races and can free candidates from special-interest money.

A fine idea, why don't we put a limit on the amount of money people are allowed to spend to propagate their opinions, while also forcing people to give money to candidates whose opinions they don't support.

While we're at it, we could also put a limit on the amount of time people are allowed to spend working for candidates of their choice, while also forcing people to spend time working for candidates whose opinions they don't support.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
November 05, 2003
Prosecutorial Misconduct

The Seattle City Attorney's Office has charged a federal prosecutor in an incident in which he allegedly rubbed his crotch against women on a bus.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:49 PM
Seattle School Board

The Seattle School Board has been captured by the loony-toons slate of Sally Soriano, Brita Butler-Wall, Darlene Flynn and Irene Stewart.

Three moderate incumbents, Nancy Waldman, Steve Brown and Barbara Schlag Peterson, were ousted, due to (understandable) frustration with poor student test scores, district financial problems, the forced resignation of a troubled superintendent and the failure to hire a new permanent superintendent.

But I have little confidence that the four new board members will steer the schools in a positive direction. Three of the four (Butler-Wall, Flynn and Stewart) were endorsed by the local teacher's union. Butler-Wall claims that her preparation to negotiate a contract with the union consists of taking "a four-hour course in contract negotiations" from the union. Two of the new board members (Soriano and Butler-Wall) were endorsed by the Green Party, whose goal is to

transform pre-K-20 education in Seattle in alignment with all 10 Key Values of the Green Party of Seattle, through research, education, and advocacy
I've seen campaign statements from three of the four new board members (Soriano, Flynn and Butler-Wall) blaming problems of minority achievement on "institutional racism" (here, here and here)

Butler-Wall wants to solve the "institutional racism" problem by using Ebonics as the language of instruction, Soriano proposes to eliminate racism by

embedding the curriculum with awareness of racism, sexism and classism
Both Soriano and Butler-Wall propose eliminating the high-stakes WASL test, because the
use of WASL scores to label racial blocs of students as failures also constituted institutional racism
and/or because it reinforces the
public's perceptions about the 'failure' of our schools
Butler-Wall's priorities also include eliminating chocolate milk from school vending machines, restricting high-school students' contacts with military recruiters, and rejecting both the accountability of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and the federal funds that come with it.

These four new School Board members will still be in office when my son starts Kindergarten in four years. I hope that between now and then the new board members will moderate their extremism and focus on finding practical solutions to real problems. I remind them that only 12-15% of the registered voters in this city bothered to vote for them and that a victory won through apathy must not be confused with a mandate. Voters will be asked to approve an education levy in February. Can the new board persuade property owners that they are fit to manage the asked-for revenues? I'm not yet convinced that granting additional funding to the schools under the new leadership would be a wise investment. But my mind is open and I hope the new board will yet win my trust along with the trust of my fellow taxpayers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:42 AM
Seattle District Elections

As I mentioned in the last post, the referendum to change the election of the Seattle City Council from at-large to district is narrowly losing, but may succeed depending on absentee ballots.

The most effective opposition to this measure came from the Seattle Times. In defense of at-large elections, editorial writer Joni Balter claimed, for example, that

Seattle often has had the nation's highest percentage of female City Council members.
With the results of yesterday's election, the new at-large City Council will be composed of 7 men and 2 women (22% female), while the new King County Council, elected by district, will be composed of 9 men and 4 women (31% female). Will Joni Balter now tell us that district elections are a good idea after all, because they sometimes ensure that more women get elected?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:17 AM
Seattle Election Results

Seattle went to the polls yesterday. There are still a lot of absentee ballots that remain to be counted, but here are some partial results.

In the Seattle City Council races, incumbents Judy Nicastro, Heidi Wills and Margaret Pageler appear to have lost their seats. They will most likely be replaced by Jean Godden, David Della and Tom Rasmussen, respectively. Incumbents Peter Steinbrueck and Jim Compton will keep their seats. None of the candidates were particularly attractive, in my opinion, but I wish the incoming council the best. To the defeated incumbents, I say good riddance.

The referendum for district elections is narrowly losing. On the other hand, the earliest returns, based solely on absentee ballots, gave districts a comfortable lead. It's conceivable that the remaining absentee ballots will carry the measure. It may take several days until we know the outcome.

What's interesting about the vote count is that except for Council president Peter Steinbrueck, who faced only token opposition, none of the winning candidates received more votes than did the opposition to the district elections referendum. In other words, more people expressed confidence in the existing election system than in the candidates whom that system has offered them. The triumph, perhaps, of hope over experience.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:05 AM
November 04, 2003
It's in the P-I (II)

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer today has a refreshingly sane editorial about Iraq

America must forge a way forward in Iraq.

The current strategies are not working well enough. That much is clear when Americans keep dying in a fight where major combat ended months ago.

The above line is in itself remarkable, as it is the first time (that I've noticed) that the P-I correctly relayed the President's words that "major combat operations" had ended. In earlier editorials, the P-I distorted these words to read, for example:
President Bush last week marked the 100th day since military operations ended in Iraq.
The rest of the editorial appropriately expresses frustration with the growing number of U.S. casualties and questions the administration's strategy, while also supporting the overall mission of rebuilding Iraq. It concludes
Americans aren't demanding an exit strategy. What they want now is for their troops to stop dying and the Iraqi reconstruction to proceed in an orderly fashion.
If the P-I continues to have a more enlightened debate on their editorial page, as this example suggests, the paper might be able to recapture some of its declining readership.


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:55 AM
It's in the P-I (I)

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer today has an article about the relatively low rate of voter participation among younger voters. Fair enough. I was intrigued by this claim:

Every now and then, however, a candidate seems to have an appeal that draws young voters. Howard Dean, pollsters now say, initially appears to have that magic. "We call them Generation Dean," said the candidate's local manager, Betty Means.
I thought I would check this statement against the results of the recent Washington Post/ABC poll.

In fact, younger voters are more likely to support the President than are older voters, and even among Democrats, younger voters are less likely to support Howard Dean than older voters.

Poll Question: "If the 2004 Democratic presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, and the candidates were Joseph Lieberman, Richard Gephardt, John Kerry, John Edwards, Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun, or Wesley Clark..., for whom would you vote? (asked of Democrats)"

Responses by Age Group
  18-3031-4445-6061+All
Joseph Lieberman 13% 15% 12% 11% 13%
Wesley Clark 6% 15% 15% 13% 12%
(VOL) Other 1% 1% 0% 1% 1%
(VOL) None of these 12% 7% 1% 10% 7%
(VOL) Would not vote 3% 3% 2% 0% 2%
Richard Gephardt 9% 9% 15% 23% 14%
John Kerry 7% 8% 10% 7% 8%
John Edwards 10% 7% 3% 4% 6%
Al Sharpton 15% 7% 5% 2% 7%
Howard Dean 15% 15% 19% 18% 17%
Dennis Kucinich 2% 1% 3% 1% 2%
DK/No opinion 8% 11% 13% 12% 11%
NA/Refused 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%

Poll Question: "If the 2004 presidential candidates were George W. Bush (R) and Howard Dean (D), for whom would you vote?"

[Out of all voters, the response was Bush's 54% to Dean's 39%]

Responses by Age Group
  18-3031-4445-6061+All
Bush 60% 53% 57% 47% 54%
Dean 36% 42% 37% 39% 39%
(VOL) Other 1% 0% 1% 1% 1%
(VOL) Neither 0% 4% 3% 6% 3%
(VOL) Would not vote 2% 1% 1% 1% 1%
DK/No opinion 1% 1% 2% 7% 2%

John Kerry has slighter higher traction among younger voters than Dean does, winning 37% to Bush's 60%.

On the other hand, there is also this poll question:
"If the 2004 presidential candidates were George W. Bush (R) and Richard A. Gephardt (D), for whom would you vote?"

Responses by Age Group
  18-3031-4445-6061+All
Bush 54% 51% 55% 45% 51%
Gephardt 42% 43% 39% 45% 42%
(VOL) Other 1% 0% 0% 1% 0%
(VOL) Neither 1% 4% 3% 6% 3%
(VOL) Would not vote 1% 2% 1% 2% 1%
DK/No opinion 2% 1% 2% 3% 2%

In fact, it looks like our younger people are not Generation Dean, but Generation W. The challenge remains to get them to vote.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:48 AM
Seattle City Council

Just a reminder to vote today for Seattle City Council.

Five seats are being contested and none of the candidates are worth voting for. Still, vote we must. When one is faced with 5 pairs of unappetizing candidates, the driving principle is to select whoever is likely to do the least damage. Since all the candidates on the ballot are silly if not ridiculous, then we generally vote for the silly over the ridiculous. Except if the ridiculous is so ineffectual they aren't likely to accomplish anything. In that case, an inept ridiculous candidate is preferable to a saner competent candidate who may actually make progress on their silly agenda. If both the incumbent and the challenger are equally silly (or equally ridiculous) vote for the challenger.

Also, be sure to vote in favor of the referendum to switch from at-large to district elections. District elections won't guarantee a better council, but at least it will mean that the council will be shaken up in 2005 and the new councilmembers will be more accountable to their voters.

A quick summary of the individual council races:

Position 7: Heidi Wills vs David Della. I'm voting to replace the ridiculous incumbent Heidi Wills with the equally ridiculous David Della. Heidi Wills was behind the council's nutty resolutions to breach the Snake River dams in Eastern Washington and to ban circus animals on city property. Her TV commercials tell us that Heidi's grandmother was a Rosie the Riverter during WWII. That might be enough to inspire me to vote for the grandmother, but not for Heidi. David Della on the other hand is no less ridiculous. Sample position:

[Della] said he does want to revisit a 1998 law giving police the power to impound cars of drivers caught with suspended licenses. Della says the law affects the poor disproportionately.
He gets my vote anyway.

Position 3: Peter Steinbrueck vs. Zander Batchelder. I'm voting to replace the silly incumbent council president Peter Steinbrueck with the silly Zander Batchelder. Steinbrueck made an ass of himself when he spoke out inappropriately during last month's school superintendent fiasco and undermined the sitting School Board. Zander Batchelder supports district elections. Steinbrueck is so opposed to districts that he threatened to walk away from the council rather than run in a district race. As my dad might say "is that a threat or a promise?". As we say in the software business: "that's not a bug, it's a feature".

Position 5: Margaret Pageler vs. Tom Rasmussen. I'm voting to keep the silly incumbent Margaret Pageler over the sillier challenger Tom Rasmussen. Pageler is reviled by some on the lunatic left as a kind of fascist conservative, so she must be doing something right. Her campaign website, on the other hand, is full of all sorts of ultraliberal twaddle. Challenger Tom Rasmussen's top priority is helping senior citizens. I'll keep an open mind and maybe I'll vote for Tom in the election of 2035, when I'll be 72 and he is 88.

Position 9: Jim Compton vs. John Manning. I'm voting, with great hesitation, to replace the ridiculous incumbent Jim Compton with his silly challenger John Manning. Compton has gotten himself into two "ethics scandals" this year. In fact, he didn't really do anything wrong, except fail to defend himself properly. On the other hand, he is a staunch supporter of the $500 million South Lake Union biotech boondoggle. John Manning previously served one year on the city council, but had to step down after spending time in jail for domestic violence (by all accounts he has paid his debt to the community, undergone counseling and resolved his personal problems).

Position 1: Judy Nicastro vs. Jean Godden. I'm not voting for either the ultra-ridiculous incumbent Nicastro nor her ultra-ridiculous challenger Godden. My wife and I discussed this one for a long time. Nicastro is not the sharpest pencil in the box, she was a women's studies major who went on to law school but never managed to pass the bar. When she was first elected four years ago, she tried to impose rent control. Jean Godden, on the other hand, is in favor of mandatory recycling and blowing $500 million of the taxpayers' money on the South Lake Union biotech boondoggle. I argued that Godden is just as ridiculous a liberal as Judy Nicastro, but as a more mature person who comes across as more credible and less confrontational, she is more likely to push through her nutty liberal agenda. So as much as I detest Nicastro, I was inclined to vote for her anyway. My wife, who is far more liberal than I am, feels that Nicastro is a nutty egomaniac and doesn't like Godden very much either, but was willing to vote for Godden. When we realized we would split our vote for two candidates we didn't really like, we decided we'd make a stronger statement if we both voted for neither.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
Seattle School Board

Just a reminder to vote for Seattle School Board today.

The Shark Blog has endorsed:
Barbara Schlag-Peterson
Steve Brown
Nancy Waldman
Betty Hoagland

I'm not exaggerating when I say that their opponents are all irresponsible lunatics. A vote for the lunatics is a vote in favor of failing schools, white flight and declining property values. If I didn't know any better, I might say that the lunatic campaigns are funded by suburban property developers who want to scare people into fleeing the city.

See my commentary on the various lunatic School Board candidates, who, by the way, are probably going to win, especially if you don't vote for the sane people endorsed above.

Lunatic Brita Butler-Wall is discussed here, here, here and here.

Lunatic Sally Soriano is discussed here.

Lunatic Darlene Flynn is discussed here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
November 03, 2003
Lying liars and the editors who enable them

Molly Ivins' column appears each Monday in the Seattle Times. In last week's column (ironically headlined Lie after lie after lie), Ivins told us a whopper of a lie -- that the administration sent

500 letters ... to American newspapers in the names of serving soldiers without their knowledge or permission
This lie has been debunked here and elsewhere. I e-mailed the Times asking them to retract Ivin's misrepresentation, but did not receive a response. Today's column repeated last week's lie and gave us a brand new lie:
Not to wish ill on Wolfowitz, but he is the one who promised us this war would be "a cakewalk"
I have never found any evidence that Paul Wolfowitz or any other administration figure ever made such a remark. The only verifiable use of the term "cakewalk" in this sense that I'm aware of was made by Kenneth Adelman, who has never been a member of this Bush administration. See for example, Kenneth Adelman's essay from Feb. 27, 2003
One year ago [2/13/2002], The Washington Post published my article "Cakewalk in Iraq," which predicted that "demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk."

Though that view has been denounced, even disparaged, by nearly everyone from Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz on down, I remain as confident now as I was then.
I e-mailed this quote to the top editors over at the Seattle Times. I asked them to either press Molly Ivins to produce documentation that Wolfowitz promised that the war would be a "cakewalk" or to print a retraction. I'll keep you posted on their response, if any.

I notice that Ivins' original column contains this other widely discredited lie:

George Nethercutt, a Republican congressman from Washington state, spent four days in Iraq and told an audience at home: "The story of what we've done in Iraq is remarkable. It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day."

Major oops. "Let's ignore the dead soldiers" is not going to improve anything.

The Seattle Times had the good sense to remove the above lie from their version of Ivins' column [print only]. They could still do an even better job of fact-checking and editing Ivins' columns. Or better yet, they could fire Ivins and treat us to a more honest and thoughtful columnist. There are many to choose from.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:40 PM
Dino!

Washington state senator Dino Rossi has announced he will run for governor, giving state Republicans a realistic chance at winning the governorship for the first time since 1980.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:52 AM
Putting the "achievement gap" in perspective

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that

Institutional racism in Seattle schools contributes to poor performance by black and Hispanic students and to the gap between their academic achievement and that of white students, School Board candidates said last night at a public forum.
I don't think it was all the School Board candidates who invoked racism, only a few of them.
Darlene Flynn, who is challenging District 2 incumbent Steve Brown, said an example of institutional racism is the failure of the district to raise an alarm over the near-total inability of black students to meet standards in math on the standardized Washington Assessment of Student Learning.

A black woman who is the only non-white candidate in the election, Flynn said that if white students recorded a similarly dismal performance, there would be an uproar.

Darlene Flynn, who has been endorsed by the teachers' union, might find it easier to blame an abstract bogeyman like "institutional racism" than to roll up her sleeves, understand the actual issues and propose actual solutions to actual problems.

First of all, there has been an uproar over the disparity in academic performance between different ethnic groups. Just query the phrase "achievement gap" in the P-I archive or in the Seattle Times archive, or at the website of the Seattle School District and you will see how many times this phrase appears. The "achievement gap" is the single most prominent issue in the public discussion of the Seattle school system and in the School Board race.

Unfortunately, this uproar doesn't seem to be universal. The P-I tells us who was present at this public forum.

The forum, sponsored by the NAACP and other civil rights groups at the African-American Academy, drew two dozen voters and seven candidates in Tuesday's election
The P-I doesn't tell us who these two dozen voters were or if they were even parents of children in the Seattle schools. But if the achievement gap was important to the parents of the thousands of underperforming children, why couldn't the "civil rights groups" produce a larger turn out for this forum?

Could it be that the "achievement gap" stems from a "parental involvement gap"?

Betty Hoagland, who is perhaps the most overlooked candidate in the School Board race, may also be one of the most realistic:

Hoagland appealed to the citizenry for help with district problems.

"School districts cannot do this alone," she said. "We have to involve the community. We have to say, 'We don't know it all. We need your help.' "

Indeed.

Betty Hoagland will get my vote, as will Darlene Flynn's more sensible opponent, incumbent Steve Brown.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:26 AM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says that Head Start is still a fine idea. Indeed it is a fine "idea". It just doesn't seem to accomplish very much. The P-I thinks the federal government should not devolve responsibility for Head Start to the states under the theory that

Head Start does a good job of preparing kids for school.
Unfortunately, that hopeful assumption is not well established. Google for the terms +"head start" +thernstrom and you'll see what I mean.

Joanne Jacobs also has a recent entry on some initiatives to reform Head Start, here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:58 AM
Monkeys in Government

Government buildings in India are overrun with monkeys:

NEW DELHI -- In a capital city where cows roam the streets and elephants plod along in the bus lanes, it's no surprise to find government buildings overrun with monkeys.
We have the same problem here in Seattle.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:08 AM
November 02, 2003
Iran reneges

It shouldn't surprise anyone, except maybe the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, that Iran is reneging on its commitment to open its nuclear program to inspections:

Iran's supreme leader said Sundaythat "excessive demands" from abroad could prompt Tehran to retreat from a recent commitment to give inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog more access to its atomic facilities.
One word: Osirak.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:22 PM
The P-I admits it was wrong

Here at the Shark Blog we give credit where credit is due, even to those whom we also frequently criticize.

In today's editorial, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Editorial Page Editor Mark Trahant admitted he made some mistakes in the recent Nethercutt controversy

... our Editorial Board concluded that Nethercutt was part of a larger story, the coordinated effort by the Bush administration to change the story about Iraq. If the story is about progress in Iraq, then, we believed Nethercutt's view to be, the lesser story is about troops who have died or who face daily threats of death or injury. That was something our Editorial Board found unacceptable and said so. But then we erred because we allowed the discourse to slip into name-calling.

This just goes to show I can be callow and shallow, too. And, I've learned something from this debate, too. We need to provoke passionate opinions in a way that promotes respect for the other side of the argument.

I still think that the P-I is completely off-track to insist that the bigger story is about US casualties. In any military engagement, the main story should always be about the purpose and success of the mission itself, and whether the progress of the mission justifies its terrible sacrifices. To fixate primarily on casualties is a form of unilateral disarmament.

But at least the P-I is listening to its critics and raising its own bar. And who were the critics? Trahant wrote:

Many readers -- and even more non-readers -- detested the P-I's editorial cartoon and editorials regarding Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Nethercutt.
The non-readers are not named, but I have to conclude that many of the ones he has in mind come from the blogosphere. I listed a number of the blogs that criticized the P-I last week here. And I know for a fact that someone at the P-I reads blogs. My traffic log shows that I get several hits from the P-I on a typical weekday. One of these hits followed Instapundit's link to my entry about the P-I.

The blogosphere, I believe, is growing in its importance as a constructive quality control mechanism that helps improve the output of the commercial media.

Also in today's P-I is Johann Hari's column for the Independent with the headline: "It's slow going, yes, but Iraq is getting better each day".


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:56 AM
Fun with polls

Reuters, reporting today on the results of the Washington Post-ABC News poll:

Poll Finds Nation Split Between Bush, Democrats

Support for Bush has fallen to the point where 48 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for him if the election were held today, while 47 percent said they would vote for the Democratic Party's nominee. Five percent said they did not know.

The findings demonstrate that three years after one of the closest and most bitterly contested elections in U.S. history, in which Bush narrowly defeated former Vice President Al Gore, the nation is once again polarized.

Associated Press, reporting today on the same poll:

Poll suggests Democrats poorly positioned to challenge a weakened Bush

People are evenly divided whether they would support President Bush or the Democratic candidate should the election be held today. Bush fares better against specific candidates, holding leads ranging from 8 to 18 percentage points.

Although both reports mentioned that Bush was vulnerable and running more or less even with Democrats in the abstract, the Reuters report did not mention that Bush has a strong lead against each individual Democrat.

The WaPo itself says that

Bush begins the campaign year with an overall approval rating of 56 percent, according to the new Post-ABC News poll. That number is good by historical standards and masks sharp differences between Republicans and Democrats.
and also that
Democrats, however, are virtually invisible as an effective opposition to a president who commands center stage.
The AP report buried the 56% approval rating oin the final paragraph.

Advice to readers: whenever you see a news "report" about a poll, always go look at the actual poll results. You will learn all kinds of important things that you are not likely to find in any news article. In this case, for example:

59% - 40% say that Bush is honest and trustworthy (including 54% of independent voters). The "Bush lied" canard is working only among self-described Democrats. Also, 61% - 37% agree that the war in Iraq is part of the war against terrorism (among them 50% - 47% of Democrats) , and 58% - 38% think the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued U.S. military casualties.

The most likely Democratic nominee seems to be Howard Dean, who, according to the poll, is leading among Democrats and who would lose to Bush in the general election, 54% - 39%. While that margin would not be quite as large a landslide as, say, Reagan over Mondale or Nixon over McGovern, it would be comparable to Eisenhower's 1956 victory over Adlai Stevenson.

Finally, to the question "Which political party today best represents your ideas about how the United States should be governed -- the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or neither?" The results were:
36% Republican
32% Neither
31% Democrats

Among 18-30 year olds, the Republicans are favored over Neither 38% to 32%, with only 27% going with the Democrats.

Heh.

UPDATE As the German Medienkritik blog points out [scroll down for his summary in English], Der Spiegel also distorts the meaning of the poll with this fantastic headline and intro:

Bush's Approval Sinks

Barely one half of Americans are still satisfied with Bush's performance. A year before the Presidential elections, the Democrats and Republicans are now running even.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:14 AM
Brita Butler-Wall: Teacher unions über alles

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says that Seattle school board candidate Brita Butler-Wall will "bring an independent, forceful outlook to the board" and calls her "appropriately focused". In fact, Brita Butler-Wall seems to be more focused on protecting the teachers' union than serving the needs of students and their parents.

In her statement to the Seattle Education Association, which has endorsed her candidacy, Brita Butler-Wall calls for limits on transparency and accountability in public education in order to prevent parents from demanding alternatives to failing schools. Her main concern about Washington's WASL test is that it leads to "public's perceptions about the 'failure' of our schools". Indeed, those public perceptions are there for a good reason. Regarding the federal Leave No Child Behind Act, Butler-Wall wrote:

I fear that the national requirement for annual testing will further distort real education ... This movement seems destined to set schools up to fail, paving the way for increased privatization.
If Brita Butler-Wall is elected to the School Board and has to represent the taxpayers in negotiations with the teachers' union, how can we expect her to perform? The Seattle Times suggests the answer:
Butler-Wall also said she recently had taken a four-hour course in contract negotiations from the Seattle Education Association, whose board has endorsed her over Waldman.
If that's not a fundamental conflict of interest, I have no idea what is.

Brita Butler-Wall seems to be the front runner in her race against the incumbent Nancy Waldman. The good people of Seattle need your help to save our schools from Brita Butler-Wall. If you live in Seattle, please be sure to vote for Nancy Waldman. If you don't live in Seattle but know someone who does, please send them a link to this web page.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
November 01, 2003
Brita Butler-Wall and her nutty delusions

Seattle School Board candidate Brita Butler-Wall, in an interview on local NPR affiliate KUOW, August 27, 2003

Interviewer: What do you think is the biggest problem facing Seattle schools right now and what would you do to solve it?

Butler-Wall: The biggest problem without a doubt is disproportionality. Our children of color are not being well served. We have institutional racism present in essentially every school and I think that with good professional development and a concerted effort we can solve that problem. A thousand other schools have solved that problem. We can solve it too.

Interviewer: What facets of Seattle Public Schools show you that it practices institutional racism?

Butler-Wall: I think pretty much ... if you walk in the door of most of the school buildings you do not see any literature in any other languages than standard English which has kind of an off-putting effect to all the many families who come here from a different culture. Of course they're eager to have their children learn standard English, I'm not saying they're not. But just in terms of creating that kind of a climate. There's really not much recognition that people come from a variety of cultures. And that's a simple example.

It might be tempting to some people to blame an abstract bogeyman like "racism" for the underachievement of some children. But Brita Butler-Wall either suffers from delusions, or she doesn't bother look at the school system's actual data, or both.

First of all, although the population of Seattle is only 8% black, about 25% of the school systems' administrators are black. If that's attributable to institutional racism, it's probably not the sort of racism that Brita Butler-Wall is fantasizing about.

Second, the school system's performance data [large PDF] indicates that by a number of quantitative measures (e.g. high school GPA, graduation rates, attendance rates, test scores, expulsion rates), Asian students (especially Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese) outperform white students, and Latino students are doing better than black students. How this is explained by a lack of "recognition that people come from a variety of cultures" or a lack of books in foreign languages, is a big mystery to me.

Brita Butler-Wall also makes all kinds of other grand statements without being able to back them up:

Brita Butler-Wall ... I think the schools right now feel that they get unfunded mandates without the resources needed to put them into place effectively.

Interviewer: Like what?

Brita Butler-Wall: Well, um, like what. I can't think of any example off the top of my head. Sorry.

Sorry.

And we'll all be sorry if Brita Butler-Wall is elected to the school board.

Brita Butler-Wall seems to be the front runner in her race against the incumbent Nancy Waldman. The good people of Seattle need your help to save our schools from Brita Butler-Wall. If you live in Seattle, please be sure to vote for Nancy Waldman. If you don't live in Seattle but know someone who does, please send them a link to this web page.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:06 PM
A constructive response to racism

This fine essay, by Aaron Counts, appeared in today's Seattle Times.

As a black man and a Seattle native, I always take a moment to chuckle every time a local newspaper or television broadcast discusses the actions of local "black leaders." Local people of African descent are so economically, politically and ideologically diverse that I fail to see how a handful of men could be anointed as our leaders ("Black leaders say plan to honor UW coach reopens painful past," Times, page one, Oct. 25).

Similarly, the model of leadership they seem to have undertaken is one of knee-jerk reaction to covert and overt acts of racism, both real and perceived. When one pauses to examine the effectiveness of such a tactic, it becomes clear that a person whose life and career are dedicated to reacting to external forces is not leading, but merely following the will of others.

Counts concludes:
Sure, racism exists, but given that fact, now what? Now we build from personal and cultural strengths, we work to educate ourselves, and we learn how to navigate institutions. We choose to fight battles of consequence so that it is clear we won't be placated with empty gestures.

And those who profess to lead us we hold to high standards, just as we do ourselves.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:10 PM
Brita Butler-Wall

Help!

It looks like Brita Butler-Wall, barking lunatic candidate for Seattle School Board, has better than even odds of winning her race. In the September primary, Butler-Wall beat the incumbent board president Nancy Waldman by a large margin and even won the most votes of any candidate in any school board primary race. It looks like she may beat Waldman in Tuesday's general election. The Seattle Times reports that

it's one of the most expensive school-board races in Washington. Butler-Wall has raised $34,000 in campaign cash, nearly three times as much as Waldman.
All I can say is "Oy vay". Brita Butler-Wall is a genuine nutcase and is likely to do a great deal of damage to the Seattle schools.

As I've written earlier, Brita Butler-Wall is best known for her campaign to rid the schools of sweetened beverages, including Coca-Cola and chocolate milk.

Among Brita Butler-Wall's other insane and destructive campaign proposals are:
1) She wants to teach black kids to use "Ebonics"

A former linguistics professor, [Butler-Wall] said students who speak non-standard English should be taught in their vernacular.
2) She would be happy both to defund the schools and to avoid improving them:
she suggests the district might consider refusing federal money as a way to circumvent the requirements of No Child Left Behind
Naturally, Brita Butler-Wall has been endorsed by all the clueless lunatic lefties in Seattle, including the Green Party of Seattle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and both weekly newspapers.

I'll post a few more items about Brita Butler-Wall between now and the election. The good people of Seattle need your help to save our schools from Brita Butler-Wall. If you live in Seattle, please be sure to vote for Nancy Waldman. If you don't live in Seattle but know someone who does, please send them a link to this web page.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:57 PM
Trick or Treat

David Sharkansky went trick-or-treating for the first time last night.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:16 PM
Europeasers say Israel biggest threat to world peace

The International Herald Tribune reports that

Almost 60 percent of Europeans say that Israel is a larger threat to world peace than North Korea, Iran or Afghanistan, according to a poll scheduled to be made public Monday by the European Commission.
unfortunately the Europeasers also want to "help":
In the parts of the survey made public Monday, 80 percent said they wanted Europe to be more involved in the Middle East peace process.
"Peace process" my ass.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:34 PM